Los Angeles Lakers @ Orlando Magic

facebooktwitterreddit

On Sunday afternoon, the Los Angeles Lakers will return to the spot where they won the NBA Championship just nine months ago when the Orlando Magic play host to the defending champs. The Lakers defeated the Magic 4-games-to-1 in a competitive series that featured two overtime games.

Los Angeles took game 1 in a blowout before winning game 2 in overtime after Courtney Lee couldn’t convert on an alley-oop layup at the buzzer. Orlando would win game 3 only to blow a late lead and lose game 4 in overtime. Los Angeles closed out the series out in game 5.

The Lakers enter the final game of a southeastern road trip that has not gone well. The Lakers lost to the Miami Heat in overtime Thursday 114-111 and then fell to the Charlotte Bobcats 98-83 on Friday night. The Magic are coming off a 97-87 win over the New Jersey Nets on Friday night.

These two teams met on January 18th in Los Angeles and the Lakers came away with a 98-92 victory.

The Lakers are 46-17 overall and 17-12 on the road. The Magic have been excellent at home, positing a record of 24-6 at Amway. They are 43-20 overall.

Tip-off from the Am is scheduled for 2:30 pm EST and the game will be shown nationally by ABC. As always, if you can’t watch the game, you can listen to it locally WDBO AM 580 and in Spanish on WONQ AM 1030.

The Line: Orlando – 3.0

Starters:

Orlando

Dwight Howard
Rashard Lewis
Matt Barnes
Vince Carter
Jameer Nelson

Los Angeles

Andrew Bynum
Pau Gasol
Ron Artest
Kobe Bryant
Derek Fisher

Los Angeles scores 102.7 points per game and ranks 11th in the NBA in offensive efficiency and 10th in offensive rating (108.7). The Magic, who have been playing much better defense recently, rank third in efficiency (99.7) barely trailing the Lakers (99.6) and the Celtics (99.4). The Magic give up 95.5 points per game and are also third in defensive rating (102.8).

Orlando counters LA’s second most efficient defense (LA also is also second in defensive rating (102.1)) with the sixth most efficient offense. They rank ninth in offensive rating (109.5) and score 101.7 points per game.

Los Angeles plays at a slightly faster pacer (96.0 to 94.9).

Kobe Bryant was very vocal at practice Saturday and the Lakers are not happy about losing two straight games. Lakers Head Coach Phil Jackson, who has won 10 of the last 19 NBA championships, said his team was “frustrated.” For those reasons, expect the Lakers’ best effort.

In their first meeting, the Magic overcame a poor start defensively, battling back from a double-digit deficit to take a nine-point lead in the third quarter. The Lakers countered, scoring the first 15 points of the fourth quarter and never looked back, earning a 98-92 win.

That game is remembered by some Magic fans as the game where Dwight Howard’s offense seemed to turn the corner. Howard’s offense has always been somewhat underrated but he really played well in the game – he went 10-of-14 from the field and hit two jump shots. He finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds. The Magic, as they often do, got away from Howard down the stretch.

Howard, who struggled against the Lakers’ front line during the NBA finals last year, had to have gained some confidence after that offensive performance.

Kobe Bryant had an awful night in that game. He scored 11 points on 4-of-19 shooting and was showing obvious signs of his injury. Bryant is looking much better lately – he’s gone for 29.7 points per game in his last three including a 39-point performance against the Heat on Thursday, so it’s unlikely Kobe will put up another game like he did in January.

The Magic have to do a better job against the Lakers’ supporting cast. Jordan Farmar scored 11 points and Shannon Brown had a career-high 22 points in that meeting. Brown is only averaging 8.0 points per game and Farmar averages 7.7 points per game. LA’s bench, usually comprised of just three players, accounted for 42 points.

Orlando’s bench didn’t just do a bad job of defending LA’s second team, they failed to produce, scoring just 15 combined points.

The Magic have struggled with the Lakers front line but the Magic did a better job against the Lakers bigs in January. Gasol, who made an impact with 17 points and 10 rebounds, has always given the Magic problems and they must find a way to slow him down.

Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson sat and watched the Lakers trophy presentation last season after game 5 last season and you’d think they’d like nothing more than to beat LA.

The Magic must take care of the ball, get the ball into Howard and have their guards keep up their recent string of efficient play.

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