The Lakers were hosting the Orlando Magic tonight in Los Angeles, and were looking to avenge an embarrassing loss from a month earlier. In that particular game Orlando C Dwight Howard caused all sorts of problems for the Lakers, but they felt that this time would be different due to the increased performance from Andrew Bynum.
After suffering a scary ankle injury on Saturday night in Dallas Kobe Bryant was a game time decision for tonight’s match-up. However, it was no surprise when Bryant took the floor to help his Lakers take on the Magic.
The first quarter was difficult for the Lakers defensively, but it was a coming out party for young Andrew Bynum. The Los Angeles center was clearly pumped up to play against Dwight Howard, and it showed in the quarter. Bynum made a huge impact in the paint, and had 6 points and 11 rebounds in the first quarter alone. However, the Lakers were unable to overcome the Magic due to poor defense.
Orlando was hot from the outside, especially Ryan Anderson. As a PF with range, Anderson gave Pau Gasol trouble on the defensive end. Anderson and Jason Richardson were hot from the perimeter, and shot the Magic into a decent lead at the end of the quarter, 25-19.
The second quarter was very similar to the first in many regards. While the Lakers continued to look good on the offensive end, they struggled on defense. Despite the great play of Andrew Bynum, Dwight Howard continued to cause trouble for the Lakers front court. The combination of Howard in the paint along with effective outside shooting allowed Orlando to maintain the lead throughout the quarter.
The offensive leaders for the Lakers were Gasol and Derek Fisher. Fisher has been struggling with his shot recently, but appeared to find his stroke in the first half. Fisher connected on four of his six shots in the first half, and finished the half with 10 points. Gasol also added 11 points of his own. After Saturday night’s ankle injury, Bryant was clearly struggling with his shot in the first half. Bryant shot just 2-10 from the floor in the first half, and the Lakers went to the break trailing the Magic 46-41.
Entering the second half the Lakers needed to tighten up their defense, especially on Orlando’s perimeter shooters. The Lakers came out of the half with a sense of purpose, and tied Orlando after just two minutes of play. Los Angeles used aggressive defense to hold down the Orlando offense and gain the lead early in the quarter. Despite his poor shooting in the first half, Kobe Bryant came out firing in the third quarter. He began to heat up and hit several buckets to help the Lakers build their lead.
After his successful shooting in the first half, Fisher kept the Lakers afloat in the third quarter as well. As Orlando was attempting to crawl back into the game, Fisher connected on a deep three-pointer that ignited the crowd and re-established momentum for the Lakers. After just four points in the first half, Bryant scored 12 in the third to push his total to 16 and put the Lakers on top 71-66.
The Lakers opened the fourth quarter with a Shannon Brown three-point shot that put the Lakers up by eight. Two possessions later Matt Barnes connected on a three-pointer of his own and the Lakers appeared to have control of the game. The good sign for the Lakers was that it wasn’t the offense that led them to tonight’s victory, it was their defense. After struggling in the first half to contain Orlando’s shooters, the Lakers stepped up the defensive intensity in the third and fourth quarters.
A game that was close for most of the game broke open in the fourth as the Lakers began to pull away from Orlando. Hot shooting and excellent defense had Los Angeles witha very comfortable lead as time began to tick down in the final quarter. The main reason for the Lakers’ success tonight was Bynum, who finished the game with 10 points, 18 rebounds and 4 blocks. The 18 rebounds were a career high for the young center, who received an enormous ovation from the Staples Center crowd as he walked off the floor. After the final few minutes ticked away the Lakers had defeated the Magic 97-84.