After dropping back to back games vs. the Mavericks, the Lakers head into Orlando to face the Magic needing a win. As much as I believe the players and coaches that they’re not really worried about the standings, there’s a practicality here that should not be ignored. With only 12 games left in the regular season, building some momentum by playing better basketball is important. And for as much as a mindset of “it doesn’t matter who we play” is real, you’ll never hear the team say it doesn’t matter how they play.
Which means, it’s about time to start to fix some of the little things that are plaguing them — or at least the things that plagued them vs. the Mavericks. First and foremost, that means finding a better rhythm offensively and, honestly, that’s going to have to start with Anthony Davis.
AD has not shot the ball well since his return, which is to be expected. Practice shots are not the same as the ones taken in games; the speed and level of intensity is going to impact results. AD needing to get his legs back and improve his conditioning also play a factor. That said, with his minutes restriction lifted heading into today’s game, I do hope that Davis starts to see some improvement in his wind and, related, with the success rate of his jumper. Because, make no mistake, in the big picture the team is going to need Davis to find his stride as a jumpshooter, particularly if he’s going to play a lot of minutes next to non-stretch bigs like Drummond and Harrell.
Speaking of Trez, he will be back in the lineup tonight after sitting out the 2nd Mavericks game in favor of Marc Gasol getting some run. Trez before getting a game off, Trez was going through a bit of a slump, where reduced minutes backing up Drummond has really seemed to impact his overall effectiveness. Trez was not finishing as well near the basket and was not playing with the same giddy-up overall — particularly on defense. Against a Magic team that Trez was able to put in good work against when these teams played in LA, I hope he can bounce back and regain some of his earlier season form.
I’m going to sound like a broken record here again, but the Lakers also need to find a way to hit some outside shots. KCP should be back in the lineup after missing the 2nd Mavs game due to a sore ankle, so that should help. But the Lakers will also need Kuz, THT, Keef, and Dennis to knock down a higher percentage of the open jumpers they’re getting. The team can be so inconsistent from behind the arc and on those nights where they struggle, it seems like they hit these massive dry spells where no-matter how open the shot is it just clanks harmlessly off the rim. Beating the Magic may not require them shooting at an insane clip, but if they have one of those 8-30 nights, they also dig themselves a hole that can be difficult to climb out of.
The most important thing about this game, however, will simply be the amount of spirit and intensity the team shows. The losses against the Mavs were particularly rough because the team was fully capable of getting wins in both games but couldn’t pull them out. Those types of losses have a way of lingering and impacting future performance, so it’s important the Lakers come out with energy and focus. Orlando has lost 5 games in a row and 11 of their last 12, but the Lakers cannot take their recent decline for granted. They’re the Lakers and teams are going to get up to play them. Come out early with the right approach and seize control early, or things could be tight down the stretch.
Where you can watch: 4pm start time on Spectrum SportsNet.