The Los Angeles Lakers (1-6) head into Orlando to face the Magic (3-5) desperately in need of finding a way to capture their second win of their road-heavy, early-season schedule. After showing flashes throughout the first half of last night’s game against the Heat, the team seemed to sputter down the stretch as Miami ran away with it in the second half.
Tonight, the team must find a way to recreate some of that team-oriented play and hot shooting that led to an exciting first half against Miami; but they know they’ll need to find a way to maintain it for the duration of the game in order to compete with all the energy and effort the Magic bring. Kobe Bryant’s sore back kept him out of their game against Miami, and he was somewhat non-committal when asked about whether he intended to play tonight.
The Magic play two scoring forwards in Tobias Harris and Evan Fournier alongside center Nikola Vucevic, and each has the ability to put up 20+ points on a given night if your defense isn’t careful. Harris is averaging 14.8 points and 8.0 rebounds on the year and does his damage from both the inside and beyond the arc (35.0 percent from deep). You must defend the three-point line against Orlando as Fournier — the team’s leading scorer at 19.0 points — is knocking down 38.8 percent of his 6.1 attempts per game.
Vucevic has been slowed by a sore knee and could be replaced in the lineup by reserve center Dewayne Dedmon. Regardless of which player mans the middle, the Lakers will have to make a concerted effort to keep Orlando’s frontline off the boards. Orlando scores 46.5 points in the paint per contest, which is sixth best in the league. Watch out for Aaron Gordon and the energy he brings on both ends off the bench. It will be absolutely vital to put a body on him each time a shot goes up.
Orlando’s talented and athletic backcourt tandem of Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton should be quite the challenge for D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson, but should make for a very entertaining matchup. Neither of them shoot for great percentages — both under 40 percent from the floor — but find so many other ways to impact the game. Both are above-average defenders, look for them to pressure the ball, play the passing lanes and look for opportunities to get out in transition.
C.J. Watson provides quality minutes for them off the bench, but don’t forget about rookie Mario Hezonja. He’s been hit-or-miss in terms of his production in the early going, but he has the type of skills and game that could provide some serious excitement if the Lakers permit him to get things going. Like Larry Nance Jr., you don’t want to find yourself on his runway with a full head of steam.
Keys to Victory:
Communicate and Play For One Another Defensively: Having held only one opponent under 100 points, their lone victory over the Nets, the Lakers simply have to improve on that end of the court. They give up far too many uncontested layups, find themselves completely lost on too many switch or help opportunities and there just doesn’t seem to be enough communication on the defensive end. Part of that comes from learning the tendencies and strengths of teammates, but you’d like to see the team with more chemistry on that end at this stage.
D’Angelo Russell Must Continue to Assert Himself: Whether it is difficulty growing comfortable within Coach Scott’s variation of the “Princeton” and adapted sets, D’Angelo Russell needs to continue looking for opportunities to make an impact on both ends of the floor. Part of that could be assisted by more chances to utilize the pick-and-roll and generate scoring opportunities while on the move.
Continue to Move Bodies and the Ball: They cannot become a team that ball-watches and runs iso-sets exclusively for large stretches of games. No matter which player has the ball, teammates have to continue working to get themselves into scoring or rebounding position at all times.
Los Angeles Lakers (1-6) at Orlando Magic (3-5)
4:00 PM PST, November 11, 2015
Amway Center, Orlando, Florida
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN (English) / 1330 AM ESPN Deportes (Spanish)
Magic Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Elfrid Payton
SG: Victor Oladipo
SF: Evan Fournier
PF: Tobias Harris
C: Dewayne Dedmon (if Vucevic sits)
Key Reserves: PF: Aaron Gordon, SG: CJ Watson, SG: Mario Hezonja, PF: Channing Frye
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Jordan Clarkson
SF: Metta World Peace
PF: Julius Randle
C: Roy Hibbert
Key Reserves: SG: Lou Williams, SG: Nick Young, C: Tarik Black, F: Larry Nance Jr.