The Los Angeles Lakers might have had their season-high tying four-game winning streak snapped in a loss to the Toronto Raptors over the weekend, but the team’s Tuesday showdown against the Orlando Magic should offer a solid chance to get back to their winning ways.
The Lakers have hardly been gangbusters this season, but the Magic are an objectively worse basketball team. If their 35 losses compared to the Lakers’ own 29 didn’t tell that tale, there is also the fact that the Magic have a worse net rating.
Orlando is getting outscored by 4.9 points per 100 possessions, which is the fourth-worst mark in the league. The Lakers rank 24th while getting outscored by three points per 100 possessions.
Things have been even starker in January, with the Magic posting a net rating of -5.2, compared to -1.5 for the Lakers.
Defense has been the biggest problem for Orlando, who have posted the fourth-worst defensive efficiency in the league while giving up 109 points per 100 possessions. That might not be a weakness the Lakers can take advantage of, however, given that they’re only scoring 101.9 points per 100 possessions, the third-worst offense in the league.
If L.A. is to swipe a road win, they’ll have to get out in transition. That is something they’ve struggled to do for most of the season without Lonzo Ball in the lineup but have had success with during his most recent time being sidelined with an injury.
The Magic might be the home team in this game, but the Lakers actually appear to have the NBA schedule on their side. Orlando got roasted for a 60-point triple-double by James Harden into the wee hours of the evening Tuesday night in Houston, and had a late flight home to Orlando.
If the Lakers can run down the Magic’s throat early, they may leave Orlando huffing and puffing their way to a fatigue-fueled schedule loss.
Still, the Lakers aren’t good enough to take any team for granted just yet. Especially not after putting up such a stinker in Toronto over the weekend. The Lakers shot just 43.5 percent from the field and a putrid 30.8 percent from three in that defeat.
Los Angeles will also need more from Brook Lopez (who shot 3-for-10 against Toronto) and leading scorer Kyle Kuzma (who struggled his way to seven points on 3-of-9 shooting against the Raptors) if they want to start another magical winning streak in Orlando and continue to show the type of improvement this season is all about the young team displaying.
The Lakers have mostly played up or down to their competition this season, so Orlando will offer a test in that the Magic don’t offer marquee names for the Lakers to key in on.
Instead, the Lakers will have to make sure they don’t lose track of Magic reserve big man Marreese Speights, the only Magic player with a positive net rating (2.5) and Evan Fournier, who the team definitely shouldn’t Google but should keep track of on defense, as he leads the Magic’s active roster with 18 points per game.
If the Lakers can lock in on those little things, all signs are pointing towards a winnable game against a fellow lottery team. If they can’t, even without Ball, it would be one of the more disappointing losses of the team’s season.
Los Angeles Lakers (19-29) Vs. Orlando Magic (14-35):
4:00 P.M. PST, January 31, 2018
Amway Center, Orlando, Florida
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Tyler Ennis
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Julius Randle
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Kyle Kuzma, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr.
Projected Magic Starting Lineup:
PG: Elfrid Payton
SG: Mario Hezonja
SF: Jonathon Simmons
PF: Evan Fournier
C: Bismack Biyombo
Key Reserves: Marreese Speights, Shelvin Mack, D.J. Augustin, Arron Afflalo
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