Magic coach Steve Clifford out against Pacers, could miss multiple games due to COVID-19

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Orlando Magic head coach Steve Clifford was not with the team for Sunday’s game against the Indiana Pacers at Amway Center as he remained in the league’s health and safety protocols following a positive COVID-19 test.

Clifford first tested positive after Thursday’s game against the Pelicans. He had two negative tests Friday before a second positive result came back Saturday morning. Subsequent tests confirmed Clifford has the virus.

Clifford, 59, was not showing any symptoms and remained upbeat, but told reporters Saturday night he expected to miss Sunday’s game. Assistant coach Tyrone Corbin handled the head coaching duties in Clifford’s absence.

“Obviously, the mood is concerned,” Corbin said about the team before tipoff Sunday. “They’re concerned for Coach. It’s a good group of guys, and one of the guys are down. So, like everybody, we’re concerned for him and fortunately he’s feeling well.

“And then we know we have a game to play. Indiana is not going to feel sorry for us, so we know we’re trying to build a culture where we continue to compete, figure out where we are and who we are and want to continue to do that to make ourselves proud and to help Coach feel better about his situation.”

Clearing the NBA’s health and safety protocols has typically taken at least 10 days for most who have contracted the virus. Former Magic shooting guard Evan Fournier recently missed nine games — over 16 days — while in the health and safety protocols before returning to the Celtics lineup.

A lengthy stay in the health and safety protocols for Clifford would cause him to miss a big chunk of the Magic’s remaining 13 games.

Even if Clifford only misses a week, he’ll be out for five games. Following Sunday’s game, the Magic host the Los Angeles Lakers Monday, then play in Cleveland on Wednesday and in Memphis on Friday before returning to Amway Center to face the Grizzlies again Saturday.

Orlando (18-41) was looking to end a four-game losing streak as it faced Indiana for the third and final time this season. The Magic played the Pacers close in the two previous meetings, losing 120-118 in overtime and 111-106.

Normally the Magic would have had a morning shootaround or walkthrough available to go over the game plan. With Clifford’s positive test, however, the Magic were in more restrictive, enhanced protocols. Corbin said the Magic came in at 5 p.m. and reviewed some of what they wanted to do against the Pacers.

The Magic had lost five of the previous eight meetings with the Pacers, and had been 5-24 in the past 29 contests overall. Orlando had dropped 10 of the last 12 regular-season games at Amway to Indiana, which finds itself in the thick of the play-in race in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers (28-31) beat the Pistons 115-109 Saturday behind a combined 51 points from Caris LeVert and Malcolm Brogdon to remain ninth in the standings. They trailed the eighth-place Hornets by 1.5 games and the seventh-place Heat by three games.

Wendell Carter Jr. returned to the starting lineup Sunday after missing Thursday’s game against the Pelicans with a sore ankle. Corbin said Carter, however, would be under a minute restriction the next couple of games as he eases back into the playing rotation.

Gary Harris, Cole Anthony, Dwayne Bacon and Chuma Okeke joined Carter in the starting lineup.

The Magic, however, played without Terrence Ross (back spasms), James Ennis (calf soreness), Michael Carter-Williams (sprained ankle) and Otto Porter Jr. (foot pain).

The Magic did not have to face Pacers’ All-Star center Domantas Sabonis, who sat out due to a sore lower back.

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Roy Parry at rparry@orlandosentinel.com. Follow on Twitter @osroyparry