The Los Angeles Clippers are beginning to play like the team that was the surprise of the NBA last season. In order to get back to .500, though, the Clippers have to start winning on the road, something that has been very difficult for them this season.
The Clippers (14-16) try for a rare road victory when they face the Orlando Magic (18-14) on Tuesday night in the opener of a six-game trip.
Los Angeles went 47-35 last season and won a playoff series for the first time since 1976, setting up high expectations for this season. While the Clippers have been good at home—they’re 12-6 at Staples Center—they’ve been very bad on the road, going 2-10 away from Los Angeles. That mark has the Clippers tied with Memphis for the worst in the league.
After sweeping a three-game homestand, Los Angeles hopes to use the trip to continue getting back to the level it played at last season. Only two of the six opponents currently have winning records.
“We were 3-0 on the homestand and we’re getting our swagger back,” said Clippers forward Elton Brand, who had 32 points and a career high-tying eight blocks in a 90-80 win over New York on Sunday. “There’s no better time than now, going back east for six games. Since I’ve been here, this trip every year has been kind of a make-or-break stretch for us to make the playoffs.”
The Clippers went 5-2 on a similar eastern trip last season, including a win over Orlando, to spur them toward the postseason. In 2004-05, Los Angeles went 1-9 during the stretch and finished the season 37-45.
Los Angeles beat Orlando 116-91 at home Dec. 3, snapping the Magic’s six-game winning streak. The Clippers have won four straight and six of the last seven meetings with the Magic. Los Angeles has also won three of the last four at Orlando after going 1-8 there from 1993-2002.
Even with the loss to the Clippers, the Magic began 2006-07 with a 14-5 record. Orlando, though, stumbled after that, winning only three of the next 12 games before blowing out Miami 97-68 on Saturday.
The Magic had the best record in the Eastern Conference for much of this season, but needed the victory over the Heat to climb back into a first-place tie with Washington in the Southeast Division.
“The first thing Coach (Brian Hill) said in the meeting today was that you’ve got to stop it right here. We came out today with the energy and the focus to get it done,” Howard said.
This is the second game of a four-game homestand for the Magic, who are 11-6 at Amway Arena. Orlando, which also hosts Charlotte and Boston before leaving on a four-game West Coast trip, is 4-5 in its last nine at home after a 7-1 start to the season at Amway.