Despite a lackluster finish, the Los Angeles Lakers came away with a 106-94 victory over the Orlando Magic thanks to another dominant effort from LeBron James.
It was a solid start for the Lakers, who got out to a 9-3 lead thanks to three Magic turnovers and a couple of drives from James. Orlando quickly rebounded and took an 11-9 lead, however, as they began to hit from the outside while Los Angeles surprisingly found it difficult to score against their porous defense.
The Magic ripped off a 14-2 run as the Lakers struggled to take care of the basketball, though Carmelo Anthony was able to stop the bleeding with a vintage midrange jumper. DeAndre Jordan was able to come up with some clean blocks, but L.A. would head into the second trailing 25-18.
James woke up the Staples Center crowd with an emphatic block against the glass early in the second, while Anthony nailed a corner three to bring the Lakers within four. James ignited the team on both ends of the floor and found Talen Horton-Tucker on a fastbreak dunk that gave Los Angeles a 32-31 lead.
When James went to the bench, Orlando took full advantage and eventually regained control of the game though Russell Westbrook kept them close. James was able to restore order in the closing minutes of the half, but L.A. still found themselves down 52-49.
Westbrook came up limping on the last play of the half but was able to walk back to the locker room under his own power.
Fortunately, Westbrook was able to start the third but it was James once again kicking things off as he drained consecutive threes. The 36-year-old superstar looked like he was enjoying himself on the court with how animated he was after making plays and which eventually led to a 19-0 run.
The Lakers continued to pitch their shutout and James excited the crowd again after soaring in for his third block. Orlando seemed shellshocked and Los Angeles would walk into the fourth comfortably ahead 85-61.
Westbrook joined in on the fun with a hard drive to the rim and found Jordan on a nifty pass for a lay-in. However, Orlando showed some signs of life offensively and got within 16 points to make things a little interesting.
James made a deep three to resettle the team, but the Magic did not stop trying to chip away at the deficit. Orlando was able to get as close as 10 points, but Los Angeles did just enough to keep them at bay and secure the victory.
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