The Lakers enter Sunday’s matinee against Orlando having won seven of their last eight games. The team that handed them that one loss? The Magic.
The two teams met just over a week ago, with the Magic defeating Los Angeles, 130-117, to snap the Lakers’ four-game winning streak. The Lakers, after a game in which they allowed the Magic to eclipse the 100-point mark through three quarters, have since won three straight to improve their record to 11-7.
The Magic have dropped back-to-back games against quality opponents, including a lopsided loss in Denver on Friday when they kicked off a five-game West Coast road trip. The explosive offense and efficient shooting the Magic enjoyed during their stretch of winning seven of nine games, was non-existent against the Nuggets, as the Magic shot just 40.5 percent from the field en route to a 112-87 loss. The Magic struggled to contain the Nuggets on the offensive glass (12 offensive rebounds allowed for 23 second-chance points) and in the paint (64 points in the paint).
“Hopefully, this shocks us and wakes us up,’’ Aaron Gordon told reporters after Friday’s loss. “We respond well after losses. So, onto the next one.’’
Rebounding, particularly on the defensive end, will be a focus for the Magic on Sunday, Steve Clifford told reporters after Saturday’s practice.
Their defensive assignment certainly doesn’t get any easier on Sunday with LeBron James, who last week against the Magic had 22 points and seven assists in 26 minutes (the following night, LeBron dropped 51 points in Miami). The Lakers, who have seen increased aggressiveness from Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball over their last two games, own an offensive rating of 109.6 points per 100 possessions, which is 11th best in the league. Their 53.7 effective field goal percentage is fourth highest in the league. The Lakers also average 56.7 points per game in the paint, which is third most in the league.
During a stretch in which they have won nine of 11 games, capped by a 90-83 win over the Jazz on Friday, the Lakers have had a defensive rating of 104.0 points. That has improved their season-long rating to 107.7 points per (11th best).
That improved defense, however, was in no way evident when they played the Magic, who shot 53.8 percent against Los Angeles and led by as many as 25. Nikola Vucevic had a season-high 36 points on 15-for-23 shooting, and D.J. Augustin carved up the Lakers’ defenders and attacked at will en route to a season-high 22-point performance.
The Magic, though, are coming off two of their lowest scoring games of the season where they struggled generating off the pick-and-roll and have shot a combined 40.5 percent from the floor, including just 25.8 percent from three (16 of 62).
The Magic have not beaten the Lakers in Los Angeles since 2012, losing five straight since. Stealing a win on the road against the Lakers would be crucial for a Magic team in the midst of a difficult West Coast trip. Looming on Monday is a match-up with the defending champion Warriors on what will be the second night of a back-to-back.