Lakers vs. Magic Pre-Game Report: Dwight Howard Returns to Orlando

NBA: Orlando Magic at Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers enter tonight’s game having recently seized hold of the eighth playoff seed. They’re also nursing a three game win streak and hope to make it four. Playoff push aside, tonight is also a significant night for Dwight Howard and Earl Clark who will be returning to their former home stadium in a Lakers uniform. It will surely be an emotional night for Dwight who was drafted number one overall by the Orlando Magic in 2004. His ugly divorce from the Magic is well documented and it’s likely he now has more detractors in Orlando than loving fans.

Back to basketball. Tonight’s game is another must-win for these Lakers who need to continue winning as the postseason approaches. Lakers fans who are riding high and projecting the possibility of a six seed, need to be reminded that the Lakers are not a good road team by any stretch of the imagination (11-20 road record). The Lakers will be on the road for eight of their next ten games. On the road there are no freebies; each victory will be hard-earned.

One glance at the Magic’s record and you would be incorrect in thinking that they’re a terrible team who is just going to roll over. The Magic took the Heat to the buzzer a week ago in Miami. Flush with the recent trade deadline acquisitions of Tobias Harris and Beno Udrih, the Magic are playing their best basketball of the season.

Frontcourt: Tobias Harris has been a pleasant surprise for the Magic since they acquired him from the Bucks. In nine games Harris has shown that he is capable of playing well on both ends of the floor. He’s the team’s second leading scorer with 15.4 points per game on 52 percent shooting. Drafted in the first round this year, rookie Moe Harkless has continued to develop, and is showing that he can be a significant role player down the line. Harkless’ seven foot wingspan allows him to be a disruptive force on defense.

Starting center Vucevic is a candidate for the league’s most improved player. It’s mind-blowing that Vucevic was buried on the bench in Philadelphia as he’s posting 12.2 points, 11.4 boards and one block this year. He’s a strong rebounder who manages to grab 3.4 offensive boards per game; Dwight will certainly have his hands full with him.

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Backcourt: Jameer Nelson recently returned from injury, and seems to be picking up right where he left off. Nelson led the Magic to victory over the 76ers with 24 points, 10 assists and 5 threes. He is the type of point guard who can do great damage to the Lakers’ defense. Starting shooting guard Arron Afflalo leads the team with 16.8 points on 44.5 percent shooting. He’s better known for his defense though and will attempt to limit Kobe tonight.

Key to Lakers’ Victory:
Get the Offense Rolling: The Magic are one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA with a defensive rating of 106.5, which means they give up 106.5 points per 100 possessions. For comparison, the Lakers defensive rating is 103.7. The Lakers need to take advantage of the Magic’s porous defense from the get-go, and put up points on the scoreboard early. As you know all too well, the Lakers have developed a bad habit of getting behind by large margins against sub-.500 teams. Let’s hope the Lakers reduce the drama and dominate the game through all four quarters.

Balanced Defense: The Magic lack an offensive star, but make up for it with a balanced offensive attack; they have four players who average double-digits. With that in mind, the Lakers need to respect the ability of each Magic player on the floor to contribute offensively. They can’t get caught ball-watching and allow a cutter to accept an easy pass for the lay-in.

Los Angeles Lakers (33-31) at Orlando Magic (18-46)
4:00 PM PST, March 12, 2013
Amway Center, Orlando, FL
TV: TWC Sportsnet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Magic Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Jameer Nelson
SG: Arron Afflalo
SF: Maurice Harkless
PF: Tobias Harris
C: Nikola Vucevic

Key Reserves: G: E’Twaun Moore PG: Beno Udrih F/C: Al Harrington

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