Steve Clifford doesn’t expect to be on the Orlando sideline when the Magic host the Indiana Pacers on Sunday night.
Clifford tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, and it marked his second such test result in a three-day span. Even if he returns two negative results on Sunday, the NBA is unlikely to clear him to coach.
Clifford indicated that assistant coach Ty Corbin — a former head coach with 286 games of experience — would run the team in his place.
“I don’t see a way I coach (Sunday) night,” Clifford said on a conference call Saturday night. “It is frustrating for me, but the league has to do what is best for the players and to go forward and play the games.”
Clifford said he hasn’t experienced any symptoms and that temperature and oxygen checks have all been fine. He said he received his second Moderna vaccination on Thursday.
The situation is the latest dose of drama for an Orlando squad that shipped out longtime stalwarts Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier at the trade deadline.
The Magic (18-41) are struggling with four straight setbacks and 10 in the past 11 games.
Thursday’s 135-100 home loss to the New Orleans Pelicans was particularly demoralizing. Orlando gave up 79 points over the middle two quarters, was outrebounded 58-40 and shot just 36.7 percent from the field.
“It’s been a tough year,” Clifford said. “But you have to evaluate things, you have to self-reflect, and this is not easy for guys either. The easy thing to do for me as a head coach is say, ‘Oh, woe is me.’ But our guys are trying hard. … I want them to get the most out of this last 13 games as they can.”
Indiana (28-31) will be aiming for its third straight victory in the second game of a back-to-back. The Pacers posted a 115-109 over the visiting Detroit Pistons on Saturday night.
Indiana likely will be without All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis (back) for the fourth straight game. Center Myles Turner (toe) also is sidelined indefinitely.
Still, Indiana was able to slide past the Pistons despite being outrebounded by a whopping 62-39 margin.
“It speaks volumes about the guys we have in the locker room,” Pacers point guard T.J. McConnell said. “With our coaching staff, there’s no quit and no give up.”
Malcolm Brogdon scored 26 points and Caris LeVert tallied 25 but another key effort was the surprise 22-point effort from Edmond Sumner.
The output tied a career high for the 25-year-old, who has been carving himself a bigger role this season. Sumner has scored in double digits eight times this month.
“Edmond does a really good job of running to his spots,” Indiana coach Nate Bjorkgren said afterward. “He does a great job of spacing himself to be in the vision of the passer. And Edmond knocked them down, he spends a lot of time working on his shooting.”
Doug McDermott provided punch off the bench with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
The Pacers are 2-0 against Orlando this season and have won the past five meetings. Indiana posted a 120-118 home overtime win on Jan. 22 prior to the Magic’s housecleaning and notched a 111-106 road win earlier this month.
–Field Level Media