Forum Blue & Gold -

Records: Lakers 21-4 (1st in the West) Magic 20-6 (3rd in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.1 (3rd in league) Magic 107.3 (12th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 101.8 (4th in league) Magic 101.3 (3rd in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Magic Jameer Nelson, Keith Bogans, Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Dwight Howard

Lakers notes: What was frustrating about last night’s loss is that the Lakers let the Heat set the terms for the game. Yes, the bad free throw shooting and the turnovers were hard to watch, but it was the flow of the game that bothered me most.

There were 90 possessions in the game, six fewer than the Lakers average a game.

Next, the Lakers did not do a good job exploiting their mismatches inside. The Heat did the smart thing, fronting the Lakers bigs. There are ways to counter that. You can have the big seal off and throw a lob pass over the defender, but the Lakers threw terrible passes virtually every time they tried that. The Heat cheated a weak-side defender down to prevent the lob and the Lakers never recognized it. Part of the problem was the bigs, particularly Bynum, not really fighting for position and sealing guys off, but the passes into the post were sad.

The other way to deal with that is quick ball rotation, around the perimeter, allowing the big to slide across and set up on the other side of the key in a better spot. The Lakers did have some good plays off quick ball rotation, but it was almost always with Farmar or Kobe breaking down the play off the dribble. Again, no good passes into the post. The Lakers need to recognize their mismatches and exploit them.

Finally, the Lakers allowed the Heat to grab 26.8% of their missed shots (almost an identical percentage to the Lakers). Simply, the Lakers did not dominate the glass, and that is part of defense, too.

One bright spot, the Lakers did what they should have done to Wade. He attacked the rim and got off a shot f5 times (making 4). But, long range twos and threes he was 7 of 16. The Lakers did a pretty good job of keeping him out of the lane, but someone like Wade scores and impacts the game anyway. What the Lakers did was what you want to do.

Kobe’s shooting: Following up on a note about Kobe’s attacking the rim and shooting in general from yesterday.

Against the Heat, Kobe drove and attack the rim for 11 shots of which he made 8, plus drew a couple fouls. He also took 11 long two-pointers or three pointers, and of those he made 3.

The Magic Coming In: The Magic just spanked spanked the surging San Antonio Spurs. I mention that just to remind you of how good this team is, they are probably the fourth best team in the NBA this season.

Not many teams can match the Lakers length across the front line, but Orlando can. They also will create some issues for the Lakers and their trap, because Lewis and Hedo can step away from the basket, and bigs who can step out have been an issue in the past. Plus, doubling off Howard is not the wisest of choices.

The guy who really impressed me when I’ve watched the Magic is Jameer Nelson, just a very solid PG. He is scoring 16 a game with a 58.9% true shooting percentage, and 30.9% of his possessions end in an assist. He understands how to distribute the ball to this team.

Bringing it all together is one of the better coaches in the NBA in SVG. Defense first, play to your strengths offense, they move at a good tempo (9th fastest pace in the NBA) and they are just well coached.

Keys To The Game: I expect a good game out of Andrew Bynum, he plays up and down to the level of the competition more than any other Laker. He did not dominate the smaller Heat last night. But tonight, against the biggest test for a center in this league, I think we’ll see his best.

What kind of team gives the Magic fits? Ones that move the ball. As you would expect with their record, they play well against everyone but have won only 33% of their games against the top 10 teams in assists in the league. The Lakers are capable of that, they are a fantastic passing team when they want to be. But of late they have been inconsistent in the offense and in their passing.

Let’s see if the Lakers can exploit a mismatch tonight, in this case the Magic don’t have anyone who can stop Pau Gasol. Make them double him and let him pass off that, with movement off the ball returning to the Lakers offense.

Where you can watch: 4 p.m., KCAL 9 here and League Pass everywhere else.