Orlando Magic Grades: Los Angeles Lakers 114, Orlando Magic 103

Orlando Magic forward Chuma Okeke held his own against Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Orlando Magic forward Chuma Okeke held his own against Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

114. 20. 103. 38. Final

The Orlando Magic found their groove. They found the energy and the will they had been missing through a nasty five-game losing streak that did not seem to give the team any chance to win games. They withstood the first quarter blitz and found their way to play to stay competitive.

The game still comes down to the big moments in the fourth quarter and the little plays that add up. The little plays that separate teams and turn a four-point deficit to a six-point one. The ones that turn the tide and help create or slow down runs.

Chuma Okeke had the play of the night when he got a ball reversal and drove through the lane past Anthony Davis to dunk on Andre Drummond. With the Magic down by 11 at the time, that kind of play proved a catalyst for the team and gave them belief to stay in the game.

That carried through to a 40-point second quarter and a back-and-forth battle into the fourth quarter.

With the Lakers holding onto a slim lead, their veterans took over.

Dennis Schroder scored or assisted on 16 of the Lakers’ final 18 points. He weaved his way through traffic, hitting mid-range jumpers as the Magic tried to scramble to stay with him and cover Anthony Davis lurking on the baseline. They struggled to trackdown shooters as their own offense began to slow down.

The Orlando Magic put up a fight and gave the Los Angeles Lakers all they could handle. But they could not track down Dennis Schroder down the stretch in a 13-point home loss.

Their shot selection certainly started to falter in the final moments of the game as the Lakers started to pull away. Doubling a six-point lead with six minutes to play by the end of the game. The Magic freely admit and understood that their youth likely cost them a chance at an upset win.

The Lakers got all they could handle from the young Magic yet again in a 114-103 win at the Amway Center on Monday. But Orlando got the lessons they have been seeking from these games and the chance to grow the next time they are put in winning situation.

At last, Orlando can have some confidence.

The Magic ended the game shooting 47.4-percent from the floor and 11 for 25 from beyond the arc. They forced 12 turnovers and took advantage wit 16 for the game.

Still, the Magic had plenty of holes and, at the end of the game, could not come up with the stops they needed to secure the win. The Lakers had 20 fast-break points for the game as the Magic continued to struggle with their communication in transition.

There is still a lot of work to do. But at least this was a game where they could show some growth.

A-. . F. Orlando Magic. CHUMA OKEKE

Chuma Okeke had been in a long shooting funk. But the message he was receiving from teammates was always the same — keep shooting. There is a lot of faith in this kid to keep delivering and to keep growing and developing. This shooting slump was seen as nothing as him going through the rookie wall. With one giant dunk over Andre Drummond, he seemed to burst the dam and break the wall down.

After missing his first two shots, Okeke made seven of his next 10 starting with that highlight-reel play. He was on point, finding gaps in the post to attack the basket and hitting from deep, making three of his five 3-pointers. He finished with a team-high 18 points. It was a big step up for Okeke and a performance that felt a long time coming.

He also got the call on Anthony Davis. That was no easy task. He did a good job largely holding his ground and while Davis got some decent post position on him, Okeke made him work for most of the game — although Okeke might have been a bit shy on him to avoid fouling or being too physical. This was the bounceback game the Magic have wanted from Okeke for a while.

. PG. Orlando Magic. COLE ANTHONY. B+

Cole Anthony called his time back since the injury as his second season. He said he feels like a different player following his rib injury and that he is essentially a veteran on this team at this point. That part might be going too far, but he is not wrong that he has looked very different since his return. This game was more proof of that with his 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting, 3-for-4 shooting from deep and seven assists.

More than anything, Anthony has gotten a lot better at controlling the pace of the game and keeping defenders off balance when he has the ball. He has been smarter with his decisions to move the ball or attack the basket. And he is finishing at the rim a lot better. This was one of his better games of the season.

Defensively, Anthony is still learning how to navigate the world of point guards. Dennis Schroder gave him a ton of lessons on how to run the point though. He really struggled to stay in front of Schroder and navigate the screens that Schroder used to get into the paint and force rotations behind him.

A. . PF. Orlando Magic. ROBERT FRANKS

The Orlando Magic certainly would like to be able to mine the G-League for some cheap players to add to their roster. That is what rebuilding teams like the Magic should do. And with the G-League champions in their system, the Magic should be able to find some. Robert Franks does not look at face value to be one of those keepers. But his play is certainly standing out.

Franks scored 10 points on 3-for-5 shooting. But his play goes beyond that. He made some big shots in the second quarter to get the Magic going offensively. More than that, he made the energy plays that the team needed to get an energy boost and stay in the game. He was first to the floor on several occasions during that second-quarter run. That was a big part of the Magic’s success in the game.

Orlando Magic. MOHAMED BAMBA. C. . C

A quick glance at the box score might suggest Mohamed Bamba had a fine game. He scored six points on 2-for-3 shooting with seven rebounds, accumulating a +10 for the game. Bamba was not super involved offensively, but he was effective when he got the ball. But that does not tell the story of his game.

Bamba continues to struggle holding off physical centers or doing much on the defensive glass. He was fine in the first half. But in the third quarter, Montrezl Harrell simply bullied him for rebounds and caught him late on rotations. Right now, nobody is afraid of Bamba’s shot-blocking and he has virtually no presence in the paint. This is a huge issue for a player who was supposed to trade on these abilities. And with the Magic clinging onto a lead, those third-quarter missed rebounds against Harrell were critical.

B. . 35-25. 5th West. LOS ANGELES LAKERS

The Los Angeles Lakers came out with fire and torched a disorganized Orlando Magic defense. They were into the ball defensively and the Magic were not particularly interested in moving the ball, often driving into traps and too deep into the paint to get a clean outlet to the 3-point line. Then the Lakers let off the gas a bit. Their bench could not create the same scoring punch and it was suddenly a game.

The Lakers were probably not going to be thrilled overall with how they played. But they got the job done. Dennis Schroder scored 21 points and dished out 10 assists to lead the team. Anthony Davis scored 18 points in 31 minutes, his most since his return. And Montrezl Harrell had 18 to go with five rebounds as he dominated the final half of the third quarter.

The Lakers did not win pretty in this one. But they did not need to. They just took control late when the young Magic did not know quite how to finish the game.

Next. Injuries have kept Orlando Magic fighting together. dark

The Magic fall to 18-42, 15th in the Eastern Conference. They trail the Washington Wizards by nine games for the final spot in the Play-In Tournament with 11 games to play.

The Magic have been eliminated from finishing in the top-9 in the Eastern Conference. They will be eliminated from playoff contention with any combination three losses or three Wizards wins.

The Orlando Magic are back in action Wednesday at Cleveland against the Cleveland Cavaliers.