The Lakers came into tonight’s game winners of seven of their last ten, playing at the fastest pace in the NBA.
Not an ideal opponent for a team playing on the second night of a back-to-back, who lost in heartbreaking fashion less than 24 hours earlier.
When I asked Coach Vogel if he was worried about the Lakers and their pace, he jokingly said, “Yes, that’s why I’m starting two centers tonight.”
Well the move paid off in a big way. The Magic returned home and earned a decisive victory over the Lakers 127-105 Wednesday night.
Leading the charge was Marreese Speights, who was inserted into the lineup by Vogel to match-up with Lakers starters Julius Randle and Brook Lopez. Speights finished the game with a team leading 21 points.
“He’s a threat out there,” Coach Vogel said of Speights. “He’s one of our high I.Q. guys, he just understands how to play the game. He’s always a threat, even when he’s not making shots (or getting shots).”
The Magic were playing their first game in their “City Edition” space-themed uniforms. The way the team shot the ball tonight, maybe the team will opt to sport them more often.
The Lakers began the game looking like the team that was playing on the second night of a back-to-back, missing 10 of their first 15 shots. Elfrid Payton, who only played 18 minutes last night in Houston, was very aggressive early. Payton had seven first quarter points, mostly coming from fast-break opportunities. Orlando was easily the more aggressive team early in the contest. The Magic, who rank 22nd in the NBA in free-throw attempts per game, got to the line 12 times in the first quarter.
The Magic received solid play from their bench in the second quarter, and even pushed their lead to double-digits at one point. D.J. Augustin and Mario Hezonja chipped in for a combined 12 points off the bench in the first half, but they were outscored by Jordan Clarkson and Kyle Kuzma off the Lakers’ bench (who scored a combined 20 first half points).
Coach Vogel may have gone with his bench in the second quarter just a bit too long. After a tiny Lakers 5-0 run (a Clarkson 5-0) with 3:33 remaining in the half, Vogel called timeout and got his starters back in the game.
Speights started feeling it right before the end of the first half, rattling off eight straight points. On one attempt in particular, Speights started heading back to the other end of the court as soon as he released the ball. The Magic led the Lakers 58-51 at the end of the first half.
Orlando’s red-hot shooting continued in the third quarter as they put up 43 points in the period. The Magic connected on 9 of their first 11 three-point attempts in the quarter. Evan Fournier led the charge with 14 third quarter points as the Magic pushed their lead to 20.
“One of the things we identified on the tape was (that) they’re really struggling defending the paint, so they’re packing all five guys in there,” Vogel said. “We’ve been playing with the pass a bunch of late. Tonight we got red hot and we got the victory.”
The 43 points Orlando scored in the third were the most points scored by the Magic in any quarter this season. On top of that, Orlando’s nine third quarter threes were a franchise record for one period.
With Aaron Gordon sitting out again tonight (hip), and the team still without Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross, and Jonathan Isaac, the Magic were able to get a decisive win in front of their home crowd, something that has been very rare this season.
When asked if the energy the Magic brought from the beginning of the game was a result of last night’s tough loss, Coach Vogel said, “to be honest, we’ve been playing really hard for a couple weeks now, every game. Even the games we’ve lost, we’ve played hard (but then faltered at the end). Our guys are competing, I couldn’t be more proud of the way they are playing.”
Evan Fournier added 19 points in the contest. Seven Magic players scored in double-figures en route to a 22-point victory.
Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle led the Lakers with 20 points apiece.
The Magic are back in action Saturday night at home against the Washington Wizards