The Los Angeles Lakers took the court on Sunday night against the Orlando Magic in what was essentially a must-win game given the current standings in the Western Conference.
The Lakers know they are running out of time to make their push toward the playoffs, and they seemed to realize that, coming away with a 111-105 victory over the Magic.
With Wendell Carter Jr. and Paolo Banchero drilling early 3-pointers, the Lakers found themselves in a 15-8 hole before Troy Brown Jr. answered with a 3 of his own.
Austin Reaves was the first sub off the bench and immediately injected some life into the Lakers with back-to-back buckets. Brown hit another 3, and then the Lakers bench continued to work their way back in it to close the quarter. Dennis Schroder had four straight points and despite their slow start, L.A. went into the second leading 28-25.
The Lakers built their lead up to nine early in the second quarter after back-to-back triples by Reaves and D’Angelo Russell, forcing a Magic timeout. The onslaught continued out of the timeout with Russell making another 3 and then Schroder nailing two in a row to extend the lead to 47-31.
With the Lakers eventually cooling down a bit though, the Magic responded with a 12-0 run to cut their deficit back down to four. Again though, it was Reaves that came in and restored order for the Lakers by scoring and finding his teammates for open looks. He had 15 points and three assists in the first half and L.A. went into the locker room with a 59-49 lead.
The Lakers began the third quarter sluggish much like they began the game, allowing the Magic to get right back in it after a pair of triples by Gary Harris.
Reaves again made an immediate impact after coming off the bench, taking the ball to the rack and earning a three-point play. Rui Hachimiura also got going for L.A. to end the quarter, but after a Cole Anthony 3, Franz Wagner and-one and putback by Gog Bitazde, the Lakers’ lead was just 84-81 going into the fourth.
After there not being much intensity in the first three quarters, both teams began to lock in on the defensive end to start the fourth. Davis was having a quiet night offensively, so he turned his attention to the defensive end by getting some big blocks.
Reaves then did what he does best, completing yet another three-point play to get the Lakers’ lead back to five. After an and-one by Anthony and midrange shot by Banchero though, it was a one-point game with three minutes to play.
Coming out of the timeout, the Lakers badly needed a bucket and Russell provided just that by taking it to the hole. Anthony immediately answered with a 3, so the game was back to square one at 101-101.
Reaves answered with another midrange shot to put his team back in front. The Lakers then finally got a stop, and then Reaves made a pair to tie his career-high with 31 points. Reaves made another few free throws to close it out, finishing with 35 in the win.
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