The Orlando Magic team that had been one of the hottest clubs in the league - winners of eight of their last nine games - was not the squad that showed up Tuesday night to host the Los Angeles Lakers.
The guests from the west coast came into the Amway Center in front of the largest crowd in Orlando Magic franchise history (19,482) and came away with a decisive 129-110 victory.
LeBron James led the way for the Lakers with 28 points (12-24 FGA’s), 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. Thomas Bryant added a season-high 21 points (8-10 FGA’s) and 10 rebounds.
Los Angeles, who ranks 30th in the NBA in three-point field goals (10.3 3PTM’s per game) and 28th in three-point field goal attempts (30.3 3PTA’s per game), shot 17 for 43 from beyond the arc Tuesday against Orlando (39.5 percent).
“None, no defense,” Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley said after the game, when asked about his team’s execution on that end of the floor Tuesday. “Our ability to not get back in transition. I think we allowed (our own) shot-making to impact the way that we defended.”
Russell Westbrook, who has registered more triple-doubles than any other player in NBA history, posted his third triple-double of the 2022-23 season with 15 points, 13 rebounds, and 13 assists (in 29 minutes) against the Magic.
The game began rather sloppily with both teams trying to shake off a little bit of holiday rust, combining to miss 13 of the the first 15 field goals attempted in the contest.
It was clear that the Magic were more than fine allowing the Lakers to shoot from the perimeter early in this game, and Patrick Beverley in particular took advantage of numerous wide open looks in the first quarter. The 11th-year guard attempted six three-point field goals within the first six minutes of the game, knocking down three of them on his way to nine points in the opening period. Beverley finished with 14 points (4-10 3PTA’s) in the game.
Orlando’s second unit failed to provide the team with a spark the first break through the rotation, struggling to create easy opportunities off the dribble on offense, while continuing to allow Los Angeles clean looks on the perimeter on defense. A three-point field goal from the left corner by Lonnie Walker IV gave the Lakers a double-digit lead midway through the second quarter.
While the Lakers set forth a balanced attack in the first half, the Magic were overwhelmingly led by point guard Markelle Fultz, who scored 13 of his 16 points prior to intermission - many of those coming in the painted area off drives to the rim.
After trailing by as many as 16 points in the first half, Orlando began to chip away at Los Angeles’ lead as the second half began. A pivotal moment in the game came just minutes into the third quarter as rookie forward Paolo Banchero was charged with both his fourth and fifth personal fouls. Ironically enough, both foul calls were reviewed.
Banchero was caught extending his arm in frustration as he was tangled up with Beverley attempting to get back on defense for his fourth foul (after review, he was not charged with a flagrant foul), and then was called for a charge on a fast break opportunity moments later (which was unsuccessfully reviewed by Mosley).
“Being a game of runs, that was a huge stretch,” Mosley told reporters after the game, when asked about Banchero getting into foul trouble. “Obviously not having him on the floor, and then understanding where we wanted to keep Wendell (within his minutes limit) on the front end of a back-to-back, those are situations that you think about and look at. But again, you have to give the Lakers a ton of credit. They came out and hit us in the mouth early, they put the pressure on (us), and they attacked in transition.”
It was a three possession game heading to the fourth quarter, but that would be as close as the Magic would get.
“We just weren’t locked into the game plan,” Fultz told reporters after the game when asked about his team’s defense, which gave up 56 points in the paint. “We were letting them get transition buckets, that’s a huge part of their game. Not getting back on makes and misses, just really not letting our defense dictate our game (and the way we play). So, I think we were just getting caught up in all the wrong things tonight, which is frustrating. But at the same time, we’ve got to learn from it and keep it moving. Use this frustration as motivation for the next one.”
Six Magic players finished the game in double-figures, led by Wendell Carter Jr.’s 15 points (6-8 FGA’s, 2-2 3PTA’s) and 4 assists in 19 minutes. Franz Wagner added 15 points (4-8 FGA’s, 2-4 3PTA’s).
“Absolutely, that’s the best thing about it,” Fultz said after the game, when asked about the team’s opportunity to start a new winning streak tomorrow night in Detroit. “You don’t have to sit around and sulk, beat yourself up about it. Definitely, in order to be a good team, you have to prove that you’ve learned from the things that you did. We can’t let this dwindle and go into the next game. We’ve got to shake it off and let it be motivation for our next one.”
As dejected as they were with the outcome of Tuesday’s contest, the Magic quickly shifted their focus to what’s in front of them. Their next test comes less than twenty-four hours from now on the road against the Detroit Pistons.