Avenging a regular season loss on February 13, the Los Angeles Lakers were able to defeat the Orlando Magic by the score of 97-84. Turnovers (18 in total) and offensive rebounds (gave up 14 of them to the Lakers) doomed the Magic. Not only did the turnovers erase possessions for Orlando offensively, but the offensive rebounds allowed second and third chance opportunities for Los Angeles. That’s not a winning formula and, as a result, it’s no surprise that the Magic walked away with a loss. The Lakers were led by a balanced attack, as five players scored in double figures. Kobe Bryant finished with 16 points and was a big reason that Los Angeles was able to win, given that he snapped out of his shooting funk in the first half and led a surge in the second half that sealed the game. Andrew Bynum, despite dealing with foul trouble throughout the evening, was brilliant and didn’t back down from Dwight Howard, finishing with 10 points, 18 rebounds, and four blocks. Howard was not too shabby either, putting up 22 points, 15 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. Unfortunately for Howard, he had nine turnovers as well, which proved to be a problem for Orlando. It can’t be understated that the Magic’s inability to take care of the basketball undermined their ability to hang with the Lakers as they made their run in the second half.
Los Angeles trailed by five points at halftime and it was a combination of factors that led them to that deficit.
Head coach Stan Van Gundy made the tactical decision to start Ryan Anderson at power forward and matchup with Gasol. The rationale behind that strategy was to take advantage of Anderson’s ability to spread the floor, so that Howard had enough room to operate on the low block and not be hindered too much by the Lakers’ length in the paint. The move paid off at first. Anderson was able to make a few threes on the wing in catch-and-shoot situations, taking advantage of Gasol’s lack of familiarity dealing with stretch fours on the perimeter defensively. And to top it all off, Anderson was doing a good job of holding his own against Gasol on the other end of the floor. Gasol was having a hard time, at first, of scoring against Anderson and that proved to be a minor victory for Orlando.
Bryant’s struggles on offense in the first half also aided the Magic. It’s true that Bryant is dealing with a sprained ankle but he looked fine on the court. In this case, Jason Richardson deserved a lot of credit for fighting and challenging Bryant as he tried to execute his moves offensively. Bryant put up a lot of contested and difficult shots and unsurprisingly, they weren’t going in.
Fortunately for the Lakers, Bynum and Fisher kept them within striking distance with their activity. Bynum, especially, was active on the glass and created a lot of extra possessions for Los Angeles, which helped mask their poor field goal percentage in the first and second quarters because they were attempting more shots than Orlando. Fisher, on the other hand, was able to draw three fouls on Jameer Nelson in the first half, which slowed down the Magic’s attack on offense. Nelson was extremely engaged when the game started, but his aggressiveness got neutered as he got baited into silly offensive fouls. As such, Orlando had to rely on Chris Duhon at the point guard position and that didn’t work out so well.
In the second half, everything regressed to the mean.
Bryant began to hit shots, regardless of the degree of difficulty, Gasol began to wear down Anderson, and Lamar Odom made his presence felt in the third quarter as the Lakers surged ahead of the Magic and took control of the game. Not to be outdone, Los Angeles’ defense in the second half was outstanding, playing with active hands and forcing numerous turnovers. Players like Hedo Turkoglu had a tough time being able to create in pick and roll situations, given that counterparts like Ron Artest were disruptive defensively.
Despite Howard’s brilliance — excluding his turnovers — and a decent showing from the starters, this was an outing in which the Lakers’ exerted their will.
This is a type of game where Orlando doesn’t have the talent to beat Los Angeles in that manner. The Magic need to execute because their margin for error against a team like the Lakers is small, and they didn’t. Hence the loss.