The nightmarish road trip ended for the Lakers against the Magic in Orlando. And the result was pretty much the same as most of their games as Orlando thumped the Lakers, 109-90.
The Lakers couldn’t get anything going at the start as they missed their first 10 shots. Orlando got off to a 10-0 start and the team from L.A. got rejected as many times in the first quarter as I did at a club on a regular Saturday night. The Magic blocked the Lakers nine times and were up by 25 at one point.
L.A. made a couple of runs in the second half. D’Angelo Russell scored 12 points in the third and helped cut the deficit to 8. But the Magic brought the lead back to 20 as the Lakers defense continued to have holes. Jordan Clarkson then caught fire and chopped the deficit to 6 but Orlando countered with a 13-0 run to put away the game.
It felt like they’ve taken a couple of steps back since their game against Cleveland. They have trouble playing all four quarters. If they don’t blow big leads (like they did against Miami and Charlotte), they get off to slow starts. Inexperienced teams tend to do that.
But what’s really disappointing is that the Cleveland game seemed like an aberration compared to the rest of the trip. I’m not saying they’re selfish and going after their numbers but the ball movement is no longer there. In that 10-10 start, they would fly around on defense even if they overplay and we didn’t see that for much of the trip. We saw the Magic players blow by them pretty easily. And so many shooters got open. Even though Elfrid Payton isn’t known as a shooter, he got plenty of open looks on his way to 25 points. NBA players will likely make the open shots. Serge Ibaka handled the Lakers on both ends with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and five blocks.
On the other side, Clarkson led the Lakers with 18 points while Russell scored 15 (though he didn’t score after his hot third). The Lakers turned the ball over 16 times as some of the passes looked lazy or careless. They also only shot 36 percent while the Magic shot over 50 percent. (Julius Randle didn’t play because of the birth of his child. Congrats to him and his fiancée, Kendra, by the way.)
So the Lakers still only have won one game this month (1-12 in December). What the team has to do is get back to the basics. We all understand that the injuries are part of the game. But some teams have the mentality of “next man up”; San Antonio, Memphis, and Portland have played well like that in the past few years. They don’t change their system and they thrived. The team we’re seeing now is completely different from the one that started 10-10. They gotta put forth the effort on defense and fly around, even if it means overplaying them. And they have to move the ball around more instead of trying to do it solo. Players have to play for each other instead of for themselves.
They have a big test against the Clippers on Christmas Day. We’re not expecting them to win but it would be great if they can get back to what made them good, promising, and exciting in the first place. Play within the system and they’ll be back to okay. It’s frustrating but everyone that’s invested in this team has to be patient.
Happy Holidays, everyone. Remember that this is still a game so let’s all stay happy.