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NBA Preview: Los Angeles Clippers (45-27) at Orlando Magic (42-30)

Playoff contenders in the Eastern and Western conferences converge on Friday when the Orlando Magic continue an eight-game homestand against the visiting Los Angeles Clippers.

Both Orlando (42-30) and Los Angeles (45-27) come into Friday’s matchup jockeying for home-court advantage in the postseason, with the Clippers sitting in fourth place in the West through Wednesday.

After dropping their second straight with a 101-93 defeat to the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday, the Magic ended the day 1 1/2 games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for fourth in the East.

While at least fourth place and thus home court for the first round is within reach for Los Angeles and Orlando, the gap for falling into the play-in round also is narrow. The Clippers are 2 1/2 games ahead of the Phoenix Suns, who are No. 7 and the first team in the play-in out West.

The Magic lead the East’s No. 7 Miami by three games.

Before losses to Sacramento and Golden State, Orlando had won five straight games, including the first three of its lengthy homestand. The Magic, ranked No. 28 for free-throw percentage on the season at 75.1, missed more foul shots than the margin of defeat in both contests, including going a dismal 11 of 21 on Wednesday.

Free-throw shooting is an area of “concentration” that Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley said is crucial to remedy in the final push for the postseason. Cole Anthony, who scored 26 points against Golden State, echoed Mosley’s sentiment.

Indeed, the Magic lead the NBA in free-throw attempts per game at 24.6. At 18.5 converted per contest, they average slightly more than the Clippers’ 18.4 while Los Angeles attempts more than two fewer at 22.4.

The Clippers shot only 14 of 20 at the foul line in their most recent outing, a visit to Philadelphia on Wednesday tipping off a four-game road swing. However, Los Angeles made one more 3-pointer — 14 to the 76ers’ 13 — in a 108-107 Clippers win.

Paul George recorded his first double-double since Nov. 30, scoring 22 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, while James Harden posted his 22nd double-double of the season with 16 points and 14 assists.

Kawhi Leonard’s run of seven consecutive games with 20-plus points ended, as he scored 17 points, but he converted a pair of and-ones in the final minute and blocked Kelly Oubre Jr. in the closing seconds.

Los Angeles comes into Orlando No. 11 in the NBA in defense, allowing 112.9 points per game. The Magic rank third at 108.7 points allowed per contest.

The win at Philadelphia snapped a two-game skid for Los Angeles, which has not won nor lost more than two consecutive games since the last date of a four-game winning streak on Feb. 5.

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