After giving the Trail Blazers all they could handle in Portland, the Lakers took a giant step back when they returned to Los Angeles to take on the Clippers, losing by 25. A great opportunity to bounce back now presents itself to the purple and gold in the form of a four-game home stand, starting with the 13-25 Orlando Magic, who are coming off 93-90 loss in Denver.
Frontcourt: The Magic have one of the more underrated players in the NBA manning the middle in Nikola Vucevic. The former USC Trojan is averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds per game in just his fourth season. His prowess to score down low combined with the ability to knock down jump shots makes him a tough cover for other big men. He also causes problems on the boards with his work ethic, as well as his length and seven-foot, 260 pound frame.
Tobias Harris is another fourth-year man having an excellent season for Orlando. The soon-to-be restricted free agent is averaging a career best 18.1 points per game this season, thanks in large part to improved shooting efficiency from both inside and out. He only takes three attempts per game from beyond the arc, but Harris has connected on an astounding rate of 40.7 percent. His size and athletic ability makes him extremely versatile, and without Wesley Johnson for awhile, the Lakers could have their hands full.
Kyle O’Quinn is the oldest member of the Magic starting lineup at just 24 years of age. His numbers certainly won’t jump off the page at you, but O’Quinn is a quality young role player that serves as a glue guy for the Magic. He possesses good size and length at the power forward position and is a physical presence on defense.
Backcourt: Starting at point guard for the Magic is Elfrid Payton, who was the 10th overall pick in last year’s NBA Draft. Like O’Quinn, Payton’s numbers don’t suggest notable contributions, but this is a rookie that does a little bit of everything for his team. There isn’t one particular offensive area that he truly excels at on a consistent basis yet, especially shooting the ball. However, on the other end of the floor, he is an ample defender with a tremendous amount of upside.
Victor Oladipo is the other half of this young starting backcourt duo for Orlando. Oladipo — the number two pick in the 2013 NBA Draft — is also a supremely talented defender and athlete while his offensive game continues to improve over time. He’s averaging just under 15 points, four rebounds and four assists this season. His shooting percentage overall has increased by four percent, while his efficiency from deep has leaped by nearly eight percent from a year ago.
Keys to Victory:
Keep Magic Offense in Check: Orlando ranks 27th in the NBA in offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions). Despite having a very youthful starting lineup with some exceptional athletes, the Magic play at one of the slower paces in the league. Taking care of the basketball paired with solid transition defense will force the Magic to execute their half court offense, which could be beneficial to the Lakers defensively.
Ball Movement: The Laker offensive attack is clearly more potent when everyone gets involved. Los Angeles has averaged 5.1 more assists in their wins than they have tallied in losses — leading to eight additional points in those victories. The offense tends to get stagnant when it centers strictly around feeding Kobe Bryant the ball, as opposed to a balanced attack.
Fast Start: The Lakers dug themselves a hole early on against the Clippers, and it led to a blowout win for the latter. Against a young, athletic team like the Magic, the Lakers will need to match their energy and intensity from the outset. Los Angeles will need to play with superior effort for 48 minutes if they want to get this home stand off on the right foot.
Los Angeles Lakers (11-25) vs. Orlando Magic (13-25)
7:30 PM PST, January 9, 2015
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Magic Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Elfrid Payton
SG: Victor Oladipo
SF: Tobias Harris
PF: Kyle O’Quinn
C: Nikola Vucevic
Key Reserves: SG: Evan Fournier, SG: Ben Gordon, PF: Channing Frye
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Ronnie Price
SG: Wayne Ellington
SF: Kobe Bryant
PF: Ed Davis
C: Jordan Hill
VIDEO: Kobe Bryant On Clippers: “They’re Just Better”