What They're Saying Before the Orlando Magic Face Off Against the Los Angeles Lakers

  • The Magic face the L.A. Lakers in a rematch of last summer's NBA Finals.
    Brian Schmitz sets the stage for the NBA Finals rematch between the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center.

    The Magic meet the Lakers at Staples Center for the first time since L.A. beat them in the NBA Finals.

    The Lakers won it 4 games to 1 — and it looks as if they've put even more distance between themselves and the Magic. And everyone else.

    L.A. is a league-best 31-9, [Kobe] Bryant is the MVP front-runner and newly acquired Ron Artest has not become a distraction, except to opposing players.

    Meanwhile, going in the opposite direction lately, are the Magic.

    Orlando is (26-14) has lost six of its last eight games and is 9-10 since a 17-4 start. Not exactly the way to head into a Finals rematch and show the Lakers a thing or three, curled into the fetal position.
  • Denton: Magic Set For Finals Rematch
    John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com writes that the Magic are more concerned with improving as a team than they are with the Lakers.

    When the clinching game was complete last spring and the NBA championship belonged to the Los Angeles Lakers instead of the Orlando Magic, captains Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson stayed on the bench to make sure the visions of the L.A. celebration were burned into their memories. [...]

    ``You look at all of these banners around here and see that this is where we want to take our organization,’’ Nelson said. ``We stayed out there on the bench during the Lakers celebration because wanted that feeling stuck in our heads. We don’t want anybody ever celebrating on our homecourt again.

    ``I don’t know if you ever get over losing in The Finals until you win a championship. You get so close and you don’t accomplish your goal, that’s tough. We know we’re still a good team and we plenty to still strive for.’’

    Howard said he tried diverting his eyes from the championship banner at the end of the practice court. After all, he said he’s got enough on his mind these days with trying to get the Magic back on track after losing six of the past eight games. No, the Magic aren’t coming into this nationally televised rematch playing as well as they’d like, but Howard thinks a game against the Lakers is just what Orlando needs to snap itself out of this funk.

    ``I’ve tried to not even look around here. I’m trying to keep my focus on getting us back to playing well and playing good team basketball,’’ Howard said on Sunday. ``It’s hard to say that we’ve gotten over losing to the Lakers, but I know I haven’t. People don’t understand how I felt playing in the NBA Finals because that was a life-long dream. But then you get so close and lose and it’s like losing something in your life that you cherish the most.’’

More after the jump.

  • Orlando Magic breaks its own spell
    Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times elaborates on the game between Orlando and Los Angeles.

    Hey, wow, Orlando's in town . . . sort of.

    The sequence of events tonight will show a charter bus dropping off a bunch of tall guys at what will eventually be a full house at Staples Center, marking the first time the Lakers and Magic have played since the NBA Finals in June.

    But there's something strange about this Orlando team, loser of six of its last eight games, including a 102-87 loss Friday against a horribly depleted Portland team that was without Brandon Roy, Greg Oden and a host of other regulars.

    The Magic of last season has turned into a mystery this season.
  • Dwight Howard, Lakers' Andrew Bynum 'just different,' Phil Jackson says
    Head coach Phil Jackson believes that Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum are two different players.

    On the surface, it appears as if Bynum has a more advanced offensive game than Howard, who is generally considered the best center in the NBA.

    Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, however, doesn't put much stock in that theory.

    "It's a difference in just their physical makeup," said Jackson, who gave his team Saturday off. "I think 'Drew has great hands, great shooting touch, [but] doesn't have that strength and quickness that Howard has, that physical makeup." [...]

    Bynum has a nice jump shot up to 15 feet, and he has learned to use both of his hands. He runs the court, has gotten better in the low post and has become adept at spinning off his defender to catch lob passes for dunks.

    Howard has a nice little running hook from the left and right sides and dunks with power. He also runs the court.
  • What Happened To The Magic In Orlando?
    Kurt Helin of Forum Blue And Gold asks Philip Rossman-Reich of Orlando Magic Daily about the Magic's struggles.

  • And So We Meet Again...
    Rossman-Reich previews Orlando's matchup with Los Angeles and gathers the thoughts of Helin on how the Lakers have looked this year.

    It was precisely 228 days ago tonight when Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Phil Jackson and the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA title and defeated the Magic in five games. As Bryant and his team celebrated the victory, Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson watched from the sidelines to remember the feeling and inspire them to return to have their turn at celebrating a win in the final game of the season.

    A lot of things have changed for both those teams since that day.
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