After a brutal loss on Monday where a Damian Lillard explosion in the 4th quarter sunk them, the Lakers are back in action tonight against the Orlando Magic. Winners of 17 of their last 25 games, you’d think the Lakers are in a position to easily win a game vs. a bad Magic team that should be tanking.
However, the Lakers are severely hampered by injuries on the wing and no game should be counted as a sure win at this stage. Yes, the Lakers are building better habits. And, yes, their recent play even while dealing with injuries is inspiring. But when you’re as shorthanded as the Lakers are and going deep into the roster for rotation solutions, things are always dicey.
Tonight, then, I have no expectations beyond the Lakers coming out and playing hard and letting the chips fall from there. I want to see them compete on both ends, play smart, and try to leverage their strengths in order to optimize their chances to win. Note, I did not say I expect the team to play well. No, with a roster this diminished, things can easily go off the rails. Without Ingram’s dribble drive ability, Hart’s ability to defend on the wing (and hit shots), and the not yet 100% Isaiah Thomas getting big minutes, the ways the Lakers can compromise and hurt a defense diminish.
This, then, puts more pressure on Julius Randle, Brook Lopez, Kyle Kuzma, and Lonzo Ball to make plays against a defense that will be even more keyed in on them as players like Tyler Ennis and Travis Wear soak up minutes next to them. This can all be overcome, but it makes life harder in ways that have a trickle down effect that can impact effectiveness. Of course the hope is the remaining Lakers do well in the face of these challenges, but I think we need to be understanding if they’re not. Even against a lesser opponent.
In the end, then, I go back to what I said earlier. I want to see the Lakers compete hard and see how far that gets them. They have enough talent to win this game — see the Blazers game as proof of that — but I’m not expecting that in any way. Hopefully, though, they get the job done anyway.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.