The Los Angeles Lakers came into this game after losing to the Miami Heat due to a poor shooting performance. The Lakers could not get it going with the ball in their hands and on top of that, the Heat were hitting on most of their shots.
After the game, Kobe and the Lakers were severely lambasted and people doubted their chances in the West. Although this was just a regular season game, it felt like a must-win for Los Angeles.
The Lakers began the game slow, but the only bright spot came from Kobe Bryant as he connected on his first two jumpers, as opposed to missing his first five like he did last night. However, the Magic capitalized on the Lakers’ mistakes and were, as expected, hitting their outside shots. With 7:17 left in the first quarter the Magic led 11-6 after beginning the game shooting 5-8. Dwight Howard already racked up four points and four rebounds, while his opposing center Andrew Bynum had zero points on 0-2 shooting. Howard has been criticized by many for his lack of offensive moves, but in the early going it was clear that he wanted to showcase his talents.
To make matters worse for the Lakers down low, Andrew Bynum had to be taken out of the game early again due to two early fouls.
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The Lakers continued to play at a sub-par level and the only players in the lineup to score were the veterans Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher. With 5:33 left in the period, Kobe and Fisher each scored four point and the Lakers were trailing 12-8.
Once Bynum exited the game, Howard had no competition in the paint and it led to a Magic run. Howard either got himself to the line or he found his teammates open on the three-point line. What was just a four point deficit a few minutes ago turned into an 18-8 hold with 3:12 left in the period.
The Lakers’ offense looked even worse in tonight’s game as it did versus the Miami Heat, but one thing remained constant, Los Angeles could not make a three-point shot. The Lakers were 0-3 from distance and that resulted in a pathetic, ten point first quarter.
Los Angeles did not score a single field goal in the last 5:50 of the quarter and faced a 22-10 deficit heading into the second.
With the exception of Andrew Bynum, the Lakers’ second team was on the floor to open the period. However, not much changed as the Magic continued to pound the Lakers inside. Howard was having his way with Bynum and the Magic’s guards were also successful in exploiting Los Angeles’ defense. After a three-point play from Chris Duhon thanks to a Darius Morris foul, the Magic held a 25-11 lead.
Kobe finally re-entered the game, but it did not make much of a difference as the deficit was too large to handle for one player. The Lakers needed another player to step-up besides Kobe, but that goal took a back-seat because of the foul trouble Bynum was in. With a little over nine minutes left in the half the Lakers were down 32-14 and Bynum picked up his third foul which resulted in him being bench again.
The Lakers once again embarrassed fans with their performance in the first half and they already allowed Howard to record a double-double. Mid-way into the second period, the Lakers were shooting 7-30 from the field (23 percent) while the Magic shot 11-27 (41 percent). Los Angeles made field goals on two consecutive possessions for the first time in the game at the 6:06 mark and faced a 32-18 hole.
The Lakers ended the period on somewhat of a high-note as Kobe Bryant was more assertive on the offensive end. Still, the Lakers were trailing 48-31 and were shooting 11-38 from the field and 1-8 from three. Bryant had 15 of the team’s 31 points and was shooting 6-10 from the field.
The Magic, on the other hand, were 6-15 from the arc and Howard was clearly winning the center match-up with ten points and 15 rebounds.
The Lakers opened up the third period quite well and were both stopping the Magic on one end and were connecting on their on the other end. Instead of shooting wild three-point shots, the Lakers were feeding the ball to Gasol and he was taking advantage of the smaller Ryan Anderson. The Lakers began the third on an 9-3 run and cut the Magic lead down to 11, 51-40, with four of them coming from Gasol.
As the quarter continued, the Lakers continued with their solid defense, but they were fortunate that the Magic missed on easy looks. Orlando had point-blank attempts, but they could not find the bottom of the rim in the early going. After Matt Barnes connected on one of his two free-throws with 5:50 left in the third, the Lakers found themselves down 55-43.
The Lakers also did a good job limiting Howard’s effectiveness with the ball. In the first half, Howard was dominating the paint and was getting easy buckets near the basket or at the line.
In addition to the acceptable defense, the Lakers were lucky to have Gasol on point with his shot. Howard was forced to travel farther away from the hoop, and thus lost energy when the ball was in his hands on the other side of the court.
However, Howard sparked a quick 6-0 run late in the period and help the Magic expanded the lead to 15 after 36 minutes. Despite the fact that the Lakers did not play well in the first half, they scored 21 points in the third and were down 67-52 heading into the fourth.
The Lakers had another solid start to the quarter and the rookie Darius Morris scored the first five points to cut the Magic lead down to ten, 67-57. However, whenever the Lakers looked like they would cut the lead down to single-digits, the Magic answered back with a run.
There were many times in the third quarter where the Lakers were on the verge of hitting a streak, only to see their efforts come to a halt thanks to big shots by the Magic. After Magic forward Glen Davis made one of his two free throws, the Magic held a 14 point lead, 74-60.
The Lakers eventually cut the deficit down to eight thanks to a pair of three-pointers by Kobe and Jason Kapono, but momentum shifted the Magic’s way after Bryant picked up a technical foul. Once Kobe was charged by the referee, the Orlando crowd got back into the game and it clearly pumped up the team. With 5:19 left in the game, the Magic brought their lead back up to 14, 80-66.
The Lakers made another push late in the game and were relying on Kobe Bryant to find some offense. However, the deficit was too large to overcome and Kobe could not do it himself. He finished the game with 30 points along with three rebounds and eight assists.
As a team, the Lakers shot 38 percent from the field and were held under 90 points for yet another game. As for the Magic, they shot 42 percent and made 11 three-point shots.
Orlando did get the last laugh as it walked away with a 92-80 victory and gave the Lakers their second consecutive loss.
The Lakers will be back in Los Angeles on Sunday to play the Indiana Pacers at 9:30 p.m. EST.