not show it, but he's a big part of that [Miami] game,” Clifford said. “They all love playing with him. He's such a good screener and he knows what's going on, and he's playing a position he hadn't even practiced until this morning. He makes us big in there and physical.
“Khem's smart, and he brings a physicality, a rim protection and a screening aspect to our team that helps everybody play better.”
Forward Aaron Gordon agreed.
“He does his job very well, he doesn't complain, the ball doesn't stick, he looks [for teammates] and he's a smart basketball player at the end of the day,” Gordon said. “He knows how to play the game and so he's very fun to play with.”
For his part, Birch knows what his role is. He takes pride in his physical play, especially when it comes to setting screens and freeing up teammates for shots.
“I love it. I just love going in; love to sacrifice,” Birch said. “Sometimes I don't score. My stat line sometimes is not good, but as long as we win and my teammates, like T-Ross and Evan, get open shots, I'm fine with that. As long as we win, I'm happy.”
Stepping in whenever he's needed and giving the Magic production is nothing new for Birch. He played a key role last season when reserve center Mo Bamba missed the final 30 regular-season games with a leg injury.
The Magic certainly will need more production from Birch with Isaac and reserve forward Al-Farouq Aminu out with knee injuries.
Fournier said Birch's contributions have been and continue to be invaluable to the team.
“The best part about
Khem is really he's the only big we have that does the dirty work like that. He embraces it and he's happy to do it, and he's elite at it,” Fournier said. “Last year, when we made that run, he was a huge part of it. Like when we set those pickand-rolls, I love to see Khem just coming full speed, just setting a good screen and rolling. He brings it every night. That's extremely valuable to have someone of that type night in and night out.”
Clifford plans to continue mixing up the starting forward spots to match the opponent, using Birch against bigger lineups (like Friday against the Heat) and Wes Iwundu against smaller ones (like Saturday against the Jazz). Gordon will move into the power forward spot when Iwundu starts.
Birch and the Magic (16-20) will continue a fourgame homestand on Monday against the Brooklyn Nets (16-18).
After getting to 15-12 with an overtime win against New Orleans, Brooklyn has lost five straight games and six of its past seven. The seventh-place Nets sit just one game ahead of Orlando in the Eastern Conference standings.
All-star point guard Kyrie Irving remains sidelined with a shoulder injury that has kept him out of the past 23 games. He was averaging 28.5 points and 7.2 assists per game before the injury. The Nets are 4-7 in the 11 games in which Irving has played.
With Irving out, Spencer Dinwiddie has taken over the point guard duties. He's averaging 22.9 points and 6.3 assists per game.
Led by shooting guard Joe Harris (42.7% on 3s), the Nets ranks 8th in 3-pointers per game (12.5).
The game tips off at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on Fox Sports Florida.
Magic center Khem Birch goes to the basket past Wizards guard Bradley Beal during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, in Washington. The Magic won 122101. Birch scored 7 points, shooting three-for-three from the field and making a free throw.