Lakers vs. Magic Pre-Game Report: Dwight Howard Faces His Old Team

The Lakers end their three-game homestand tonight as they face the Orlando Magic in their Sunday whites. Dwight Howard will battle against his old team for the first time this season in what is sure to be an emotional game for him. The Lakers will look to continue their high offensive performance from Friday night’s win against the Denver Nuggets that entertained all of Lakers Nation. On Friday, the Lakers’ bench came through, led by Antawn Jamison’s 33 points and Jodie Meeks’ 21 points. Meanwhile, the Magic have dropped three straight games.

The Magic are struggling on offense with their average of 91.1 points per game (28th in league) compared to the Lakers’ ranking of sixth in the league with 100.6 points per games, and that’s without Steve Nash. The Lakers have an all-time record of 32-14 against the Magic with a 18-4 record against Orlando when playing at Staples. However, the Magic have won six of the last nine games in the regular season versus the Lakers.

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Frontcourt: It is sort of surprising that Glen Davis is the team leader in points (14.8) and among the starters, has the highest PER (15.0). Davis has always put up solid numbers on the boards (8.1), and is unafraid to use his aggressiveness and physicality in the post. It will be key for Pau Gasol to keep him off the glass, offensively especially. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dwight Howard guarding Davis to match up with his physicality.

Nikola Vucevic is a young center out of USC (originally from Switzerland). His numbers have improved from last season, but stepping into the void that now Laker Dwight Howard left is a very difficult task. Overall, Vucevic is averaging 9.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.

The rookie from St. John’s, Moe Harkless, has received a lot of playing time in his first year as Orlando is going through a rebuilding stage. Tonight, St. John’s will be well represented on the court as fellow alum Metta World Peace will defend him. Harkless is posting 4.8 points and 4.5 boards per game on 52.0 percent shooting in 17.8 minutes of action.

Fellow rookie Andrew Nicholson is averaging a decent 6.9 points and 2.3 rebounds per game on 54.5 percent shooting in 13.4 minutes.

Backcourt: Arron Afflalo went to Orlando as part of the multi-team deal to get Dwight Howard to the Lakers. Afflalo is the second highest contributor on the Magic for points (14.7) and leads the team in minutes (34.6), but is shooting below his career average from the three-point line (32.1 percent). Afflalo is still transitioning from the up-tempo pace under Denver’s George Karl to the Magic’s system, and hasn’t provided more contributions other than scoring.

J.J. Redick seems to be finally coming into his own this season after six years in the big leagues (all with Orlando). While he is coming off the bench still, his averages this season are much higher than compared to his career averages. Redick continues to be known for his sharp spot-up shooting, and must be defended well around the perimeter. Redick is 13.4 points and 4.9 assists on 44.1 percent shooting in 30.0 minutes per game.

Jameer Nelson is still putting up consistent numbers in his ninth year in the league. Nelson did not play on Friday night against the Brooklyn Nets due to an Achilles injury. He is currently listed as day-to-day and has played in eight of the Magic’s 15 games due to other injuries as well (groin). Overall, Nelson is averaging 13.0 points and a team leading 5.6 assists per game on 40.2 percent shooting. If Nelson sits, expect E’Twaun Moore to replace him in the starting lineup.

E’Twaun Moore is having a great sophomore season as his averages are basically doubled from last season. Moore is posting 11.0 points, 3.5 assists and 2.9 boards per game on 44.1 percent shooting in 28.5 minutes off the bench.

Keys to Victory:

Balance the Offense: On Friday night, the Lakers did an excellent job at balancing the stat sheet. The offense was on full throttle as they posted 122 points on 54.0 percent shooting from the field and 51.5 percent shooting from the three-point line. The bench had 61 points, led by Jamison and Meeks, while Dwight Howard had his best game as a Laker so far with 28 points, 20 rebounds and 3 blocks.

The key to balancing the offense is to share the ball, which they showcased on Friday night with a team total of 33 assists on 47 made field-goal attempts. These statistics show how efficient the Lakers were on offense. When Kobe Bryant only scores 14 points and you post 122 points as a team, you know you are doing something right. With a team like Orlando, creating great ball movement will confuse their defense and leave the Laker offense a step or even two ahead.

Clean Up the Glass: The Lakers are third in the league in rebounding with 45.9 per game. Meanwhile, the Magic average 43.1 per game, which is good for a ranking of 10th in the NBA. The Lakers’ defense seems to start with rebounding, as it dictates the pace of the game. There should be no reason why the Lakers cannot win the board battle tonight. I expect Howard to come out full of energy, especially against his old team, and dominate the glass.

Orlando Magic (5-10) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (8-8)
6:30 PM PST, December 2, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC Sports Network, NBATV
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) 1330 KWKW (Spanish)

Magic Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Jameer Nelson
SG: Arron Afflalo
SF: Moe Harkless
PF: Glen Davis
C: Nikola Vucevic

Key Reserves: G J.J. Redick, G E’Twaun Moore, F Andrew Nicholson

Magic Injury Report: F Hedo Turkoglu (broken left hand) OUT, F Al Harrington (right knee) OUT

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