In seemingly a repeat of their first meeting less than a week ago, the Los Angeles Lakers put the Orlando Magic in an early hole, only to falter and suffer a flummoxing defeat. The Lakers led by as many as 12 points in a 108-104 loss that snapped their three-game winning streak.
Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma did their part to ensure as much, with Ball controlling the defensive glass and Kuzma scoring and facilitating on offense. He had 10 of the Lakers’ first 14 points and scored or assisted on each of their first seven made baskets.
Exploiting a matchup with Wes Iwundu, Kuzma finished the first quarter with 13 points and 4 assists, both of which were game highs, and Ball had 7 rebounds. For as hot of a start Kuzma got off to, he only scored eight points after the first quarter.
When D.J. Augustin and Nikola Vucevic caught fire behind the arc and the Magic began to cut into their deficit and shift momentum, LeBron James responded with a 7-0 run to stave them off. The Magic eventually took the lead just before halftime, but James again had an answer — draining a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
That wound up only delaying matters, however, as Orlando mounted a 12-2 run in the third quarter and and led by as many as 16. For every Lance Stephenson 3-pointer there was an ill-advised shot and break down on defense.
A small lineup comprising of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Svi Mykhailiuk, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Kuzma cut the Magic’s lead to five points. A see-saw fourth quarter saw the Lakers tie the game on James’ free throws with 2:24 remaining.
But James was later beat off the dribble by Terrence Ross for a go-ahead layup, and after Caldwell-Pope missed a 3-pointer, the Magic scored on a breakaway dunk to essentially ice the game.