Lakers Rally, Hand Magic Third Straight Loss

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The Orlando Magic played with more energy, were more aggressive and gave a much better all-around effort, but still came up short, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers 98-92. There were some good signs for the Magic, but they still couldn’t get the job done. Dwight Howard led the Magic with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Shannon Brown had a career-high 22 points to lead the Lakers. It was Orlando’s seventh loss in their last nine games.

The Magic did not get off to the kind of start they wanted. They went down 21-8 because of careless turnovers and lights out shooting by the Lakers. Derek Fisher was awesome in the first quarter. He hit two three-pointers and blew by Vince Carter on a one-on-two breakaway for a layup after a Matt Barnes turnover. The Lakers were 4-of-5 from downtown. The Magic were just 1-of-4. Orlando got back into the game with some good hustle, including a beautiful play that saw Vince Carter pass to Matt Barnes, who hit Dwight Howard for a dunk. Both teams shot the ball well, but the Lakers had a 33-25 lead after one.

Orlando played much better in the second quarter. They shot just 10-of-24, but allowed the Lakers to shoot only 7-of-19 in the quarter. Orlando limited their turnovers and Dwight Howard was arguably the most active that he has ever been on offense. He even hit two jumpers. Howard did not get to the free throw line but scored 18 first half points on 9-of-12 shooting. The Lakers built their lead back up, but Orlando finished the quarter on a 12-4 run to cut the halftime deficit to just 5.

The Magic had an excellent third quarter. After allowing the Lakers to score the first 4 points of the period, the Magic went on a 20-2 run and built a 9-point lead. Orlando made four three-pointers during the period and could have built a bigger lead if they hit down some other open looks from downtown (Vince Carter missed three straight three-point shots at one point). The Magic were very active on defense and the Lakers shot just 5-of-21 in the quarter. The Magic also forced two shot clock violations. Marcin Gortat made a brief appearance and provided a lot of energy – he grabbed 5 rebounds in 5 minutes. The Magic were just 8-of-24 but of course, four of those eight makes were threes. Rashard Lewis and Marcin Gortat were active and provided some good energy for the Magic on the glass. The Lakers finished the quarter on a 6-1 run to cut the Magic lead back to 68-64.

After an excellent third quarter, the Magic played about as bad they possibly could for most of the final period. The Lakers scored the first 15 points of the quarter and were on an overall run of 21-1 to take an 11-point lead. During the run, the Magic gave up way too many offensive rebounds and got away from Dwight Howard. When Orlando finally went back to Howard, the Magic went on a 7-0 run to cut an 83-71 lead to 5, but the Magic missed some easy shots and allowed the Lakers to get to the basket too easily, allowing them to ultimately put the game away. The Magic shot just 7-of-16 in the final quarter. The Lakers were 12-of-26 in the final quarter.

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Orlando’s defense wasn’t bad. They had two bad quarters, but also had two very good quarters. They allowed the Lakers to score 33 points in the opening quarter and 34 in the final quarter, but only allowed Los Angeles to score 31 points combined in the second and third quarters. The Lakers scored 98 points, which is 5.5 points less than their season average and shot an effective field goal percentage of only 46.0%. The Magic held Kobe Bryant to just 11 points on 4-of-19 shooting. Sure, his shot was off and sure he has several lingering injuries, but the Magic forced him to take some very tough shots and did a pretty good overall job against him. The same cannot be said for the way they defended Shannon Brown. Brown, who came into the game averaging just 7.3 points per game, scored a career-high 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting. He continuously blew by Vince Carter, who could not handle hi. To be fair, Brown did make some very difficult shots. Jordan Farmar was also very good off of the bench and his play really sparked the Lakers’ third/fourth quarter 21-1 run. Farmar and Brown were just way too quick for Orlando’s guards, but that’s been the norm for the Magic’s defense this season.

Orlando’s offense was very good when it was running through Dwight Howard and they got away from that. The announcers were raving about Orlando’s offense and three-point shooting during Orlando’s third quarter run, but the Magic shot just 4-of-12 from downtown and 8-of-21 overall, scoring only 21 points. It was Orlando’s defense, which held the Lakers to just 12 third quarter points, that allowed the Magic to take the lead.

Dwight Howard showed some great signs – in the first half. During the first half, he looked about as good on offense as he ever has. He was very active and even showed off his jump shot. He attempted two of them and made both, one of which looked like a near-perfect replica of Tim Duncan’s famed bank shot. Howard scored 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting in the first half, but only attempted two shots in the second half. Howard did get to the line six times, making four, but surprisingly did not attempt his first free throw until the fourth quarter. He didn’t attempt his first second half shot until late in the fourth quarter. The Lakers decided to foul him and began to double-team him in the fourth quarter, which played a big part in slowing him down. Overall, you’d have count Howard’s 24-point, 12-rebound, 3-block game as a positive, but the second half really put a damper on what was possibly the best half of basketball that Howard has ever played on the offensive end.

Matt Barnes, as usual, came to play. Barnes followed up his postgame tirade Friday night by stuffing the stat sheet on Monday night. He had 13 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 blocks. The hustle and energy that he provides for the Magic are unmatched. On one particular play, Barnes came from behind to stop a potential Pau Gasol shot on a spin move, forcing a shot clock violation. If every Magic player played as hard as Matt Barnes, the Magic would be in great shape.

Both Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson showed some signs of life. Lewis scored 18 points, made three of his four three-point attempts, had some big rebounds and even made a key tip-in. Lewis also grabbed 5 rebounds and had a lot more energy than he has over the last few weeks. Nelson didn’t shoot well (6-of-14 from the field, 1-of-4 from downtown), but did an excellent job of getting into the paint. He set up his teammates well and if those teammates didn’t miss several open shots, Nelson’s assist total of 8 might have been higher. Nelson still needs a lot of work on defense, but his offense seems to be coming around.

What can you say about Vince Carter? He was awful. He scored 9 points on 3-of-10 shooting, but two of those shots came in garbage time. Carter did grab 5 boards but had just 1 assist and looked lost on defense. He was no match for Shannon Brown. It also was clear that Carter’s shoulder is still bothering him.

Game Notes:

  • Each team scored 40 points in the paint and each team grabbed 44 rebounds.
  • The rebounding was even but the Lakers seemed to get too many second and third chances around the rim and that really hurt the Magic.
  • Lamar Odom was an animal on the boards. He had 16 rebounds with 6 coming on the offensive end.
  • Pau Gasol was good against the Magic, as he usually is. He finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
  • The refs really swallowed their whistles. The Magic attempted just 15 free throws and the Lakers were called for only 16 free throw. As previously noted, Dwight Howard did not attempt his first free throw until the fourth quarter.
  • The Lakers turned the ball over just 7 times. Orlando had 7 turnovers in the fourth quarter.

Next Up: The Magic return home to host the Indiana Pacers, a team that is only 14-26 but did beat the Magic 97-90 on January 5th.

Final Thought: The Magic played the best basketball they’ve played in a while, but it wasn’t enough. And Stan Van Gundy doesn’t believe in moral victories.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor at NFL Mocks Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily.)