Throughout the 2019-20 NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers have managed to take care of business against teams with losing records.
They won 22 consecutive games against opponents with sub -500 records, a sign they are able to win the games they should and oftentimes by sizable margins. However, the Lakers finally saw that streak broken after losing at home to the Orlando Magic, 119-118.
Orlando was able to race out to an early lead behind a stifling defense that forced Los Angeles to settle for poor shots. Despite that, the Lakers ended up retaking the lead late in the game but ultimately fell short in the final minutes.
Head coach Frank Vogel talked after the game about his team’s ability to come back but also credited the Magic for their effort:
“Yeah, we got a good team. Even when we’re not at our, best we have the ability to rally and almost get past our deficiencies early in the game but it just wasn’t enough tonight and this is a team that’s… they’ve got a playoff culture,” Vogel said.
“They were a playoff team last year, third-best team in the East second half of the year. They’re very well-coached and they’re tied together on the defensive end and they made things difficult for us tonight. Even the guys that don’t play the regular minutes… those guys just made the best of their opportunities.”
Los Angeles followed the trend of the season by going down big in the first half and then responding with a huge run to get back within striking distance, but they could not overcome an Orlando team that seemed to have an answer every time down the floor. This was especially apparent in the last two minutes where the Lakers were able to bring the game back within one point but hit clutch shots to seal the game.
Markelle Fultz was a thorn in the side for Los Angeles all evening as the former No. 1 pick finished the night with a triple-double and nailed several tough layups in the closing moments, including an incredible reverse over JaVale McGee. Meanwhile, Quinn Cook led the Lakers in scoring with 22 points off the bench, providing a major offensive spark when LeBron James could not get much going.
Despite the loss, the purple and gold still stand atop the Western Conference at 33-8 and now have an opportunity to get back on track when they hit the road to take on the Houston Rockets.