The Los Angeles Lakers began their six-game East Coast road trip on Friday night against the Orlando Magic, the team with the NBA’s worst record.
That gave the Lakers a prime opportunity to get back on track after their disappointing loss to the Indiana Pacers and they took advantage of it with a strong second half to beat the Magic, 116-105.
Russell Westbrook, who has been the subject of a lot of criticism lately especially after being benched by Frank Vogel to close out the Pacers game, got off to a good start in this one. It was clear he was looking for his teammates early as he found Dwight Howard down low, LeBron James in the midrange and eventually Avery Bradley for a three.
Westbrook also put a slick move on Mo Bamba to finish at the rim and then Trevor Ariza found Howard for a dunk with the Lakers getting off to a good start and leading 14-7 into the first timeout.
From there though, Westbrook badly missed a couple of mid-range jumpers and then blew a layup, and the Magic went on a 7-0 run to tie things at 18 with the Lakers going on a scoring drought.
Turnovers were a big issue for the Lakers in the first quarter as they had six. The result was a 27-24 deficit going into the second frame.
The Lakers went on an 8-0 early in the second quarter thanks to James to regain the lead, although Bamba ended that with an easy layup and then Franz Wagner drilled an open three so that lead was short-lived.
As has been the case a lot recently, the Lakers closed the second quarter very poorly on both ends of the floor and went into the halftime locker room trailing 62-54.
Vogel went with Stanley Johnson over Howard to begin the second half and that did wonders as he and the other starters came out with much more energy. They went on a 9-0 run to start the third quarter to take the lead back with Avery Bradley having five of those points, forcing Orlando to call timeout.
The Lakers’ dominance continued out of the timeout as Johnson, who is not known for his shooting, knocked down two threes in a row to extend the run to 17-2 to begin the third.
The bench, led by Malik Monk and Carmelo Anthony, continued that run when they came in, which allowed the Lakers to take their first double-digit lead of the night. That lead dipped down to seven though at 85-78 at the end of the third quarter.
After a rough shooting night on Wednesday, Anthony bounced back in a big way as he hit his fourth 3-pointer at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Monk then drained another three of his own while Westbrook finished one from the mid-range to extend the lead to 16, the largest of the night.
Orlando went on a quick 6-0 run to cut it to 10, although Trevor Ariza drained his first three of the night to put an end to that and any possible hope of the Magic coming back and winning.
James, who had another very strong came, capped the night off by throwing down an emphatic lob from Westbrook.
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