LOS ANGELES — Don’t let the final score fool you.
Of the 86 losses the Orlando Magic have suffered since the beginning of last season, their defeat Monday night ranks as one of the worst.
The Los Angeles Clippers dominated them from the opening tipoff to the beginning of the fourth quarter and clobbered them 101-81 at Staples Center.
“We didn’t fight tonight,” power forward Glen Davis said.
Even worse, center Nik Vucevic sustained his second concussion since March when he fell awkwardly and banged his head on the court.
Although the severity of the injury is unclear, Vucevic now will be subject to the NBA’s return-to-play concussion protocol, which requires that players with concussions pass a series of neurological and physical tests before they can play again.
“We’ll leave it in the hands of the doctors now,” coach Jacque Vaughn said.
Vucevic had missed Orlando’s last two games because of a sprained left ankle, and players and coaches hoped his return would give them a boost on both ends of the floor.
The Magic played without sustained intensity throughout the first three quarters, and they trailed 85-55 to begin the final period.
“We just didn’t have the energy from the beginning,” point guard Jameer Nelson said. “That’s kind of what put us into a hole. Obviously, that’s a big key [for] the guys who start the game. We have to come out with energy, and it just goes down the line.”
Missed shots. Poor transition defense. Too many turnovers.
Subpar free-throw shooting. Overall sloppy play.
The Magic (10-24) committed all of those basketball sins.
The rout started early.
Even without injured starting guards Chris Paul and J.J. Redick, the Clippers (24-13) blitzed the Magic in the first quarter. Los Angeles made 61 percent of its shots, while Orlando sank only 33 percent of its attempts and turned the ball over five times.
Midway through the period, the Clippers sprinted out on a fastbreak. DeAndre Jordan caught a pass from Jamal Crawford and, with Davis between him and the basket, threw down an emphatic one-handed dunk over Davis.
The crowd uttered "ooohs" and "aaahs" and rose to its feet.
The dunk put the Clippers ahead 20-3.
When Orlando’s Arron Afflalo stepped to the free-throw line a short while later, a heckler standing between Section 107 and Section 108 yelled, "Hey! You guys have three points? Are you kidding me?"
It was no joke.
Lob City came to play.
“They got beat pretty bad the game before, so they came out with an extreme sense of urgency,” Vaughn said. “They got up and down the floor really fast, made shots early, had great ball movement early. We were playing from behind from the beginning.
“I think overall the Clippers came out with a great pace about themselves. I don’t know if it stunned us, but overall their pace was great.”
Early in the second quarter, Los Angeles had another transition opportunity — and produced another highlight-reel play.
Matt Barnes threw an underhanded lob to Blake Griffin, who unleashed a windmill dunk. It extended the Clippers’ lead to 41-20.
“You couldn’t ask for a better game from a lot of the guys,” said Griffin, an All-Star power forward who scored 16 points in almost 24 minutes.
The Magic already were trailing 68-38 when Vucevic was hurt with 8:18 to go in the third quarter.
Griffin caught a bounce pass near the top of the lane, stopped at the edge of the restricted area and pump-faked.
Vucevic jumped, and Griffin lowered his head.
Griffin undercut Vucevic, and as Griffin went upward, Vucevic fell toward the court, with his body parallel to the ground.
The 7-footer landed with a gruesome thud, prompting many fans to gasp.
Vucevic walked slowly off the court and was taken to the Magic’s locker room, where he was examined by at least one doctor.
He was well enough to speak briefly when Redick — his former Magic teammate — visited the Magic’s locker room after the final whistle. Vucevic also spoke with some friends in Staples Center’s stands just before the team bus left the arena for Los Angeles International Airport.
That bus ride must’ve been a quiet one.
Nelson, Vucevic and small forward Tobias Harris made one shot apiece and combined to make three of their 25 shot attempts.
As the fourth quarter began, the Magic had Victor Oladipo, Doron Lamb, E'Twaun Moore, Maurice Harkless and Jason Maxiell on the floor.
Afflalo, Nelson and Davis sat on the bench.
For a brief stretch, Afflalo buried his head in his left hand.
Orlando's reserves cut the 30-point deficit down to 16 points.
Harkless finished with a season-high 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Oladipo added 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
They made the blowout seem a little less decisive, and their play was the night’s only positive for the Magic.
But even that didn't erase the sting of Vucevic's injury and what occurred during the first three quarters.
Nelson said: “They had a lot more energy than us, and we just have to do a better job of bringing the game to the other team as opposed to sitting back and being casual.”
firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/magicblog and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.Copyright © 2015, CT Now