March 8, 2018, 2:57 am
The Lakers escaped a close-call Wednesday night with a 108-107 win over the Orlando Magic.
Los Angeles came out flat in the first quarter, allowing the Magic to build a 32-17 lead before climbing back to end the period down nine. The Lakers were outshot 53.8 percent to 36.4 percent, outrebounded 15-11 and committed six turnovers compared to only three for Orlando. It was an inauspicious beginning, especially considering the opponent.
The second quarter was a different story as the Lakers turned up the intensity on both ends of the court to go into the half with a 56-51 lead. The Lakers forced seven turnovers compared to just one, outshot, outrebounded and outhustled their opponent to seize momentum and control of the game.
Just like their previous game, the Lakers found themselves with a double-digit lead with less than five minutes remaining, holding a 12-point lead. For the second game in a row they failed to execute at either end of the court. They allowed the Magic to knock down shots from 3-point range and demonstrated poor shot selection at the offensive end, seemingly searching for a 3-point dagger early in the shot clock instead of using clock or running their offense.
Just as it had played out for the entire period, the Lakers missed a 3-pointer with 12 seconds to go, leading to a go-ahead easy bucket by Aaron Gordon and the Magic.
The Lakers were fortunate to get two free throws for Brook Lopez with 0.6 seconds remaining to take a one-point lead. Then the game got really strange.
The Magic tried to inbound the ball and it was intercepted by Lonzo Ball, seemingly ending the game. However, the referees signaled for a review and concluded that the clock had started inappropriately. Instead of awarding the Magic the ball, they decided to jump the ball at half court, effectively ending the game in the Lakers’ favor.
As strange an ending as it was, the Lakers were happy to eke out a win, stealing a win from the jaws of defeat.
The hero on the night was Lopez who tallied 27 points, three assists and one steal on 12-of-18 from the field and 4-of-4 from the stripe. In line with the strange evening, he had a minus-15 rating and was the first seven-footer to accrue 25 points without recording a single rebound. He played more than usual and closed out the game partially due to an illness to Lakers’ big-man Julius Randle.
Randle was able to record a double-double in only 30 minutes, finishing with 12 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and a plus-3 rating while shooting 6-of-11 from the floor.
Kyle Kuzma earned his first 20 point-game since February 14. He keyed the Laker win with 20 points, 10 rebounds, one assist, three steals, one block and a plus-5 rating while shooting 9-of-16 from the field. He appeared to play with more confidence than he had in a long time, knocking down his patented mid-range floaters and taking over the game offensively for short periods throughout the game.
He was joined by fellow rookie Ball who accumulated 16 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals, one block and a minus-10 rating on 6-of-16 from the field and 4-of-13 from 3-point range. However, he was only able to get add one rebound to his stat line in the fourth quarter while missing both of his shot attempts.
Fellow point guard Isaiah Thomas had 13 points, nine assists, three rebounds and a plus-10 rating while shooting 5-of-12 from the field and 3-of-6 from deep. After struggling in the last contest, he contributed four points and six assists in the final frame.
The Magic were led by their frontcourt duo of Gordon and Nikola Vucevic. Gordon led the team with 28 points, 14 rebounds, two assists and a plus-14 rating. He knocked down 11-of-20 from the floor and 4-of-6 from 3-point range but made only 2-of-7 shots from the free throw line, costing the Magic dearly in that regard.
Vucevic was the key to the offense with 24 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and a plus-16 rating while converting 11-of-18 from the field.
Key Stats and Observations
-The Magic were badly let down by their bench on the night, accumulating a plus-58 total rating for their starters and an uncanny minus-63 while their bench players were on the court.
-A key element to the Laker victory was the free throw line where they converted 11-of-12 attempts (91.7 percent) vs. 11-of-19 (57.9 percent) for the Magic.
-A game featuring two of the league leaders in points in the paint scored and allowed did not disappoint; the Lakers scored 58 points in the paint (first in points scored, second worst in points allowed) compared to 52 points for Orlando (ninth in points scored, last in points allowed).
-The Lakers allowed the Magic, a poor offensive team, to shoot very efficiently for the second-consecutive meeting with 50.6 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from 3-point range. Los Angeles shot 48.9 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from the line.
– Although the Lakers did not play a good fourth quarter, they were able to take care of the ball, committing zero turnovers in the final frame compared to four for the Magic. For the game, Los Angeles held a 14-16 edge in turnovers.
-Orlando outrebounded the Lakers 43-39 for the game including 12-8 in the fourth quarter.
The Lakers head to Denver to take on the Nuggets for a short one-game road-trip.
The Nuggets are coming off a frustrating 113-108 loss to the Cavaliers on the merit of a monstrous 39-point, 10-assist and eight rebound performance by LeBron James. The Nuggets took their first lead in the fourth quarter, only to have James score nine points down the stretch to steal a victory from them. They will be looking to exact revenge on the visiting Lakers on Friday.
Denver is led by talented center Nikola Jokic who is coming off a monstrous 36-point, 13-rebound and six-assist outburst in a losing effort. For the season he is averaging 16.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists.