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Preview: Lakers vs. Magic

Superman is back!

After 8 seasons that include 4 playoff apperances and 1 trip to the NBA Finals, Dwight Howard will be at Amway Center for the first time in purple and gold to take on his former team the Orlando Magic (18-46).

His return will probably prompt a lot of boos from the crowd considering everything that went on the entire "Dwightmare" last season leading to his trade to the Lakers (33-31). Howard had admitted not knowing how he'll react to how Magic fans will welcome him the moment he steps out of that locker room as the visitor. But whatever the emotion he gets from that arena, he has to remember that he and the Lakers are still fighting to stay in the playoff picture.

The Lakers were a team 8 games below .500 and was staring at a possibility of missing the playoffs for only the 6th time in franchise history and the 3rd time since the late Dr. Jerry Buss purchased the team in 1979. But 16 wins and just 6 losses later, the Lakers have taken over the 8th and final spot in the west with 90-81 a victory over the Bulls on Sunday.

But a Jazz victory against the Pistons last night had pushed the Lakers back into the 9th spot since Utah holds the tie-breaker versus Los Angeles. This makes tonight's game even more crucial for the Lakers to get a victory.

The Lakers are in the first game of a 3-game road trip that ends in Indiana on Friday. Not to mention that they'll head to Atlanta tomorrow for a back-to-back schedule. Of the 3 games, Orlando is the only team not bound for the playoffs, so Howard and the Lakers better take care of business despite the hype that will surely surround this matchup.

The Magic defeated the Lakers at Staples Center back in December, 113-103. Howard finished the game with 21 points and 15 rebounds, but his 7-of-14 free-throw shooting in the final quarter helped Orlando take a 12-2 run and a shocking victory over the Lakers.

But as we're seeing today, a lot of things changed for the better for the Lakers since that forgettable game. The question is, will Howard finally put Orlando in the past and anchor the Lakers tonight for the future?

This is the final meeting of the season between these teams. The Lakers have not taken the season series from the Magic since the 2006-07 season and have not won at the Amway Center since the deciding Game 5 of the 2009 NBA Finals.

Matchup of the Game

Kobe Bryant vs. Arron Afflalo: Kobe may have dropped 34 points on him last time, but Afflalo's 30 points ultimately was the difference in that game. There's no question Orlando has given Afflalo an opportunity to shine after 5 seasons on the bench in Detroit and Denver. He's averaging 16.8 points, 3.3 assists and 3.8 rebounds this season, and at 7.7 million a year, that's not a bad investment for Orlando considering that he is also one of the better defenders in the league. But tonight, Afflalo is facing a Kobe Bryant bent on keeping his team in the playoffs. Good luck would probably not suffice…but good luck!

Keys to the Game

> Contain Nelson: Jameer Nelson is 7th in the league in assists averaging 7.5 a game and putting up 14.6 points per game. More importantly, he has taken a bit of exception of Howard asking the team to trade him this summer, so expect Nelson to play with a chip on his shoulder tonight. The Lakers have to make sure to limit his trips in the paint and make him play in a lot of pick-and-roll defense since Nelson's defensive attention tonight is to not let Steve Nash become a factor. Not sure how he's gonna do that with Howard setting the pick and Nash having the size advantage over him.

> Activity: This game may not have any playoff implications for the Magic, but they know what a loss would do to the Lakers. Expect them to bring a lot of energy and emotion on the floor, so the Lakers better be ready to bring it, as well.

> Weather the Crowd: No doubt the Magic fans will boo Howard each time he has the ball in his hands from the start. The only way to quiet them down is to take control of the game from tip-off and make sure the Magic doesn't get any glimmer of hope in getting another win.

Watch Out For

LAKERS: Kobe Bryant: All eyes are going to be on Dwight tonight, but the Mamba will still be the star of the show. However, that all depends upon how Howard reacts to the crowd and how he approaches this game. If Kobe sees him dominating and being active, he'll probably let the big guy shine in order to help him put Orlando in the rear view mirror. If not, expect another furious game from Bryant to keep the Lakers in the playoffs.

MAGIC: Nikola Vucevic: He may be a sophomore in the NBA, but this kid can get it done on both ends of the floor. He's averaging 12.3 points, 11.4 rebounds and 1 block per game. He's a long, active body that can do damage under the hoop. Dwight and Earl Clark have to be on par with him or he could turn out to be the boost the Magic needs, especially with Glen Davis out.

Game Info

Tonight
@ Orlando Magic
Tip-off: 4:00 p.m. (PST)
Amway Center
TV: TWC SportsNet (Southern California)
Radio: 710 AM ESPN/1330 KWKW

Injury Notes

LAKERS: Pau Gasol (foot) and Jordan Hill (hip) are out.

MAGIC: Glen Davis (foot) and Hedo Turkoglu (suspended) are out.
 

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Preview: Lakers vs. Magic

The first game of their Florida tour didn’t pan out the way they had hoped yesterday against the Miami Heat, but the Lakers (10-6) will try to rectify their uninspiring turnout with a “W” against Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic (10-4). For that to happen, however, the Lakers have to put last night’s game out of their collective heads and start anew with better execution on offense and more grit on defense.

The Lakers are facing a Magic team that has only lost just once in their last 6 games and are also looking to get back to winning after losing against Oklahoma City. Orlando have the 7th highest scoring offense (97.3 PPG) and 10th best defense (92.4 PPG) in the NBA right now due mostly to a guy who calls himself “Superman”.

Howard leads all centers in scoring at 20.1 points per game and the entire league in rebounding with a 15.6 rebounds per game average. However, he’s only 4th on the shot-blocking list averaging 2.43 swats per outing. Andrew Bynum better bring his “A” game tonight and match Howard’s level of intensity and production or the Lakers could see another slide on the road.

If you don’t know already, Bynum and Howard have been the subjects of every trade talks even prior to the start of the season. But after Howard listed the Lakers as one of the 4 teams he’d like to be traded to, those talks turned from rumors to whens. It will be interesting, to say the least, how these deal with one another tonight.

After scoring at least 40 points in 4 straight games, Kobe Bryant has totaled just 38 points the last two. He scored 24 points against Miami last night, but his shooting was dismal for much of the contest. He’ll have to be more efficient and look for his shots more tonight if the Lakers want to split this back-to-back road trip.

The Lakers haven’t won at Amway Arena in the regular season since 2008. They split last season’s series by winning the 2nd meeting at Staples Center. The Magic are 5-2 at home.

Matchup of the Game

Andrew Bynum vs. Dwight Howard: Like you don’t know already. Bynum needs to impose his length and size advantage over Howard and be a little clever when he takes his shot by trying to pump fake Dwight out of his shoes. Whoever plays a complete game should tell which team will win.

Keys for the Game

1. Execution: The Lakers won’t win this game if they continue to look for an outside shot before Gasol and Bynum get their touches first. But that’s just part of what they need to do offensively. They also have to shoot well and take good shots. It also wouldn’t hurt if they run more pick-and-rolls with Kobe and Pau.

2. Bench: They’re long overdue to have an impactful game. They might not have Steve Blake but they can’t use that as an excuse to their miserable shooting. All Mike Brown wants out of them is to play hard at all times.

3. Defense: Orlando still has some shooters surrounding Howard, so their perimeter defense needs to rotate quickly and stay home behind the arc. Then, they have to limit the fastbreaks and lobs to Howard.

Game Info

@ Orlando Magic
When: Tonight at 5:00 p.m. (PST)
Where: Amway Arena
TV: KCAL, ESPN
Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN

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Preview: Lakers vs. Magic


(Getty Images)

Having already won their first 4 games of this 7-game “Grammy Awards” road trip, it’s becoming clearer that the Lakers (38-16) are moving back to elite status. While the Triangle, along with some new offensive sets, are now running smoother and more efficient, it’s been their defense in this road trip that’s been the most impressive. They have yet to allow an opponent to score above 100, including two of the league’s most notable offenses.

The Knicks, the second-highest scoring team in the NBA at 106.3 PPG average, couldn’t crack the century because they were held to 41.2% shooting. Boston, the league’s most efficient offense averaging 49.5% in field goal percentage, did even worse managing only 86 points at 40.2% shooting.

It’s now up to the Orlando Magic (34-21) to try their luck against this suddenly active and stifling defense.

Despite All-Star Dwight Howard‘s increased numbers in points (25.1 PPG) and rebounds (15.5 RPG) since January, the Magic have gone 9-9, but the most concerning numbers for them during that stretch is having a winless streak against teams with winning records at a perfect 0-8.

That should sound familiar to the Lakers as they got into the same funk not so long ago. Now, they’ve improved to 19-10 versus winning teams after starting the season 1-6.

But even with Orlando’s recent struggle, they’ve been successful against the 2-time defending champs at Amway Center winning the last 3 of 4 meetings with Howard only averaging 16.5 PPG and 14 RPG in the recent 2 games. That’s because the Lakers have been finding it difficult to contain Jameer Nelson from getting layups and setting up their shooters for wide-open treys. 

However, the Magic are no longer the same team roster-wise the Lakers saw in the past. They traded away Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat to Phoenix for Jason Richardson, Earl Clark and former-Magic Hedo Turkoglu. They also got rid of Rashard Lewis‘ insane contract to Washington for another ridiculous contract in Gilbert Arenas. So far, none of their moves have paid dividends for them.

Still, the Lakers should be fully aware now that any and every team in this league will always try to give their best against them. So expect another good one today between these two 2009 NBA Finals competitors.

Howard leads the team in points (22.5 PPG), rebounds (13.9 RPG), steals (1.3 SPG) and, of course, blocks (2.1 BPG) while Nelson tops them in assists averaging 6.4 APG. The Magic are 11th on offense (99.9 PPG), 6th on defense (94.6 PPG), and 5th in rebounds (43.4 RPG). They’re 2nd in the Southeast division and 5th overall in the east, but they’re one of the best in the league at home with a record of 19-8.

With their victory against New York on Friday, the Lakers are now 19-8 on the road — 2nd best in the NBA behind San Antonio.

GO LAKERS!!!

TP&G Blog’s Matchup of the Game

Andrew Bynum vs. Dwight Howard: It’s the battle of the league’s top two centers today. Bynum has size and offensive skills over Howard, but Dwight has quickness, speed, agility and athleticism over Andrew. However, expect an aggressive Bynum today.

Keys for the Lakers

1. Defense: Orlando surrounds Howard with shooters from 1-4, so he can maximize the space in the paint to do whatever he needs to score. It’s important for Bynum to play smart on D in order to avoid getting into foul trouble early and often. At the same time, the Lakers can’t afford to be caught paying attention inside too much or this could turn into a rainstorm of 3s for the Magic.
2. Attack Howard: Outside Dwight, the Magic have zero threat in the post. They can really take advantage of that if they can get him in foul trouble early by giving the ball to Bynum often. Howard is a shot-blocker by nature and by heart and is very susceptible to a good headfake each time down. That’s why he’s a career 3.25 personal fouls per game (3.38 this season).
3. Rebounds: Another area where the Lakers can really put the squeeze on the Magic is to dominate the glass. That means that they have to put a body on Howard at all times unless they like seeing reel after reel of Dwight throwing down a ton of putbacks.

Game Info

Tip-off is at 12:30 p.m. (PST).  TV: ABC (national)  Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN (Los Angeles)

Injury Notes

LAKERS: Devin Ebanks questionnable with sore left knee

MAGIC: Brandon Bass doubtful with sprained left knee

Preview: Lakers vs. Magic

After seeing the Lakers (46-17) play and lose the first two games of this three-game road trip, avoiding a rare three-game losing streak suddenly has a different meaning to it. A win against the rising Orlando Magic (43-20) on Sunday becomes not only is a must but could also set the tone for the rest of the season for the defending champs.

Instead of practicing Saturday, the Lakers instead had a team meeting headed by both Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant. Phil talked about their disheartening lack of defense, but Kobe practically yelled at his teammates for not having the will and determination anywhere on the court.

This is certainly good news for Laker fans because not only are the Lakers recognizing that they have some serious issues to rectify, but they also decided to do something about it now instead of waiting until they head back home. But it still hard to imagine that this team will not let-up one bit for the rest of the season even if they do come out with something to prove on Sunday.

Last time they had a team meeting, I thought that they’re going to be serious about turning things around. Obviously, they were not. To their credit, it is hard for any team to maintain a high-level of commitment and determination throughout the course of a season. But the most important thing is that the Lakers would eventually get everything together in time for the playoffs.

The Magic may have swept the Lakers in their season series 2-0, but the Lakers have proven many times that they can certainly handle them now. As physical and as athletically gifted Dwight Howard is, the Lakers’ size up front bothers him. His lack of selections of offensive moves does not help him either. This is the reason why Howard and the Magic rely so much in their perimeter game, but having the crafty Jameer Nelson on point gives a different dimension to their offensive attack.

Interestingly enough, Orlando started their surge after suffering the loss against the Lakers in January. However, the Magic has yet to fix their tendency of losing game whenever they command a big lead, especially against the best teams in the league. Still, the Magic own the second best home record in the east at an impressive 24-6. But home records usually doesn’t matter to the Lakers. Yes, they’re 17-12 on the road so far this season. But when the Lakers are focus, they usually win.

We Laker fans certainly hope that this team has finally shed their frustrating ugly habit of strolling through games until it’s too late to do anything about it. They’re gonna have to because Dallas has recently emerged as the team in the west who can seriously get in the way of their road to a repeat.

But first things’ first!

Tip-off is at 11:30 AM.  TV: ABC  Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN

GO LAKERS!!!

Preview: Lakers vs. Magic

After seeing the Lakers (46-17) play and lose the first two games of this three-game road trip, avoiding a rare three-game losing streak suddenly has a different meaning to it. A win against the rising Orlando Magic (43-20) on Sunday becomes not only is a must but could also set the tone for the rest of the season for the defending champs.

Instead of practicing Saturday, the Lakers instead had a team meeting headed by both Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant. Phil talked about their disheartening lack of defense, but Kobe practically yelled at his teammates for not having the will and determination anywhere on the court.

This is certainly good news for Laker fans because not only are the Lakers recognizing that they have some serious issues to rectify, but they also decided to do something about it now instead of waiting until they head back home. But it still hard to imagine that this team will not let-up one bit for the rest of the season even if they do come out with something to prove on Sunday.

Last time they had a team meeting, I thought that they’re going to be serious about turning things around. Obviously, they were not. To their credit, it is hard for any team to maintain a high-level of commitment and determination throughout the course of a season. But the most important thing is that the Lakers would eventually get everything together in time for the playoffs.

The Magic may have swept the Lakers in their season series 2-0, but the Lakers have proven many times that they can certainly handle them now. As physical and as athletically gifted Dwight Howard is, the Lakers’ size up front bothers him. His lack of selections of offensive moves does not help him either. This is the reason why Howard and the Magic rely so much in their perimeter game, but having the crafty Jameer Nelson on point gives a different dimension to their offensive attack.

Interestingly enough, Orlando started their surge after suffering the loss against the Lakers in January. However, the Magic has yet to fix their tendency of losing game whenever they command a big lead, especially against the best teams in the league. Still, the Magic own the second best home record in the east at an impressive 24-6. But home records usually doesn’t matter to the Lakers. Yes, they’re 17-12 on the road so far this season. But when the Lakers are focus, they usually win.

We Laker fans certainly hope that this team has finally shed their frustrating ugly habit of strolling through games until it’s too late to do anything about it. They’re gonna have to because Dallas has recently emerged as the team in the west who can seriously get in the way of their road to a repeat.

But first things’ first!

Tip-off is at 11:30 AM.  TV: ABC  Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN

GO LAKERS!!!

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