Magic vs. Lakers notebook: Preparation helps Tobias Harris excel

Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo - Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The third-year forward put together his best game of the season as Orlando topped L.A. Friday.

The Orlando Magic defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in a track meet Friday, 114-105, for their second win in their last three games.

Against the Lakers' small frontline, Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo each set new career-highs in rebounding, with 20 and 12 boards, respectively. Harris, Arron Afflalo, and Jameer Nelson combined for 73 points.

Here's a look at the stories that developed Friday.

Preparation yields results

Harris hasn't played quite as consistently as he did in his first half-season with the Magic, but he returned to form Friday with a dominant performance against the Lakers. His play didn't surprise any of his teammates or coaches.

"Going into every game, I never have a second thought of, 'is he gonna be ready to play?' If he's organized, if he's prepared. He's organized, he gives you that," coach Jacque Vaughn said afterward. "And I think his teammates appreciate that, and I know the coaching staff does."

Vaughn has made no secret of his preference to exploit matchup advantages offensively, and Harris' matchup against slow-footed L.A. rookie Ryan Kelly worked in Orlando's favor. "We tried to emphasize it a little bit," Vaughn said of that power-forward matchup.

Tobias Harris did his homework on the Lakers, proving right Jacque Vaughn's assertion that he's always "organized" and "prepared."

Harris did his homework on the Lakers, proving right Vaughn's assertion that he's always "organized" and "prepared." He watched film on himself and the Lakers in advance of Friday's game, and he picked up on Los Angeles' struggles to rebound. Counting Friday's result, the Lakers rank as the league's worst rebounding team, getting just 46.9 percent of available boards, according to NBA.com/stats.

"I know they play four-out/one-in," Harris said. "I know if Pau Gasol's out there, he's in the post, and if he misses, not too many guys are crashing [the glass] on their team. They're pretty much getting back [defensively]."

Harris also prepared for how L.A. would defend him and his team, noting L.A.'s preference for hedging on the pick-and-roll.

The Tennessee product certainly has a lot of natural ability, but his dedication to readiness helps him maximize his potential. And after an early-season slump, Harris has shown more consistent flashes of his former self after an offseason ankle injury ruled him out of much of the preseason: in his last five games, Harris is averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds per contest in 36.6 minutes on 58 percent True Shooting. Every team can use such a productive player, but especially the Magic, who've needed all season long another offensive threat to relieve pressure on Afflalo.

What made Harris effective against the Lakers, Afflalo said, was the ease with which he scored. "I thought he just fell into his points in the first half and got to the free-throw line in there with that second unit," Afflalo said. "The way he approached the game was well balanced."

Second unit provides a spark

For the second consecutive game, Vaughn used a lineup of three reserves--Doron Lamb, Maurice Harkless, and Kyle O'Quinn--alongside Oladipo and Harris to spark an Orlando comeback. That group played 14 minutes together Friday and outscored L.A. by a 24-19 margin, yielding nine baskets but forcing six turnovers.

"Hopefully it continues to work," O'Quinn said. "We love playing with each other and we always go out there and say, 'there's no such thing as a bad shot.' We're just covering for each other, because at the end of the day, if one of us looks bad, then the whole group looks bad."

Harris and Oladipo are the only real offensive threats in that group, which struggles to score in the half-court offensively. But where that quintet excels is defensively, with Oladipo and Harkless playing the passing lanes and igniting transition opportunities. One of the Magic's key baskets against the Lakers was a Harris layup off a between-the-legs feed from Oladipo: that score broke an 80-all tie and served as the second field goal in a 14-0 Magic run to finish the third quarter.

"If Tobias hadn't caught that pass, I would probably be sittin' right next to Coach," Oladipo said with a smile. "He woulda been in my ear, talkin' about, 'Make the easy play. Make the easy play.'"

Harris converted the shot and ensuing free throw to bring his total to 24, and to give Oladipo his third assist. The Magic never looked back.

No word on Nik

Friday's game marked Orlando's 10th straight without starting center Nik Vučević. The third-year big man exited the Magic's loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on January 6th due to a concussion.

As John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com notes, the Magic have yet to decide if Vučević will join the team on its forthcoming three-day roadtrip, which begins Sunday against the New Orleans Pelicans in the Crescent City. Five of Orlando's next six games take place away from Amway Center.

In Vučević's absence, Orlando has used Glen Davis at center. He finished with six points and two rebounds in 24 foul-plagued minutes Friday.

D'Antoni non-committal on Oladipo

One of the most interesting long-term developments in Orlando's season is its decision to convert Oladipo from shooting guard to point guard, a choice which has generated hundreds of comments, both positive and negative, throughout the Magic blogosphere and twitterverse.

Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni, a point guard in his playing days, wasn't interested in discussing the Magic rookie's transition to a new position. When asked what he thought of Oladipo's performance at lead guard, L.A.'s coach tried the diplomatic approach.

"I've got my own troubles. I'm not gonna coach the Magic." Mike D'Antoni

"Coach Vaughn will evaluate him and know him and know if he can do it or not. I'm sure he can," D'Antoni said. "I'm sure if they're trying to do it, I'm sure that's the best thing to do. I've got my own troubles. I'm not gonna coach the Magic. That's not good."

Oladipo entered Friday's game averaging 15.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.4 assists in January, with a True Shooting mark of 54.2 percent.

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