We may have wanted that perfect road trip too badly. The Lakers appeared to be on their way after four solid wins in a row, but after taking down the Celtics and the Knicks, the defending champs may have gotten too overconfident. Yes they’d won a championship on Orlando’s home floor before and yes they were riding a wave of much improved play, but maybe, they’ve reached the fatigue point on this road trip because honestly, they really let this one get away from them.
Where to begin? How about, after allowing the Orlando Magic to shoot 5-11 from behind arc, the Lakers only allowed 2-12 the rest of the game but let Orlando biggest weapon take charge. Dwight Howard (31 points on 13-16, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks) had three fouls before the first half ended, but played consciously, while still being aggressive, and just dominated the game. He scored on dunks from timely lobs, layups and hook shots. No one but Howard and Jason Richardson (12 points on 5-15) scored in double figures, and Orlando didn’t necessarily shoot the lights out, but they weren’t bad at 49% from the field. At least they hit 8 of their 10 attempts from the free throw line.
As if their offense wasn’t bad enough already, the Lakers struggled (they have been on this trip) from the charity stripe, making just 7-15 freebies. Lamar Odom (15 points on 5-11, 8 rebounds), who had 10 of those 15 attempts, missed half of them. The game could have been a lot closer, and possibly within reach of winning for the Lakers had those eight (or at least the majority of them) missed free throws been converted.
No, the Lakers offense certainly wasn’t its best this afternoon, especially from the guards. Kobe Bryant had a “just okay” sort of game with his 17 points on 8-18, 4 rebounds and 5 assists, but the rest of the Laker guards contributed next to nothing to this game. Derek Fisher, 4 points on 2-7; Shannon Brown, 6 points on 3-11; Steve Blake, zero points on 0-2. Fisher is not relied on for big offensive games, but after such an excellent game from Brown and Blake against the Knicks, this was a disappointment. Brown looked a lot like his old self today, taking quick shots out of rhythm and missing…badly. Blake took just two shots and despite his ability to dictate the offense, he just needs to take it upon himself to be more aggressively offensively, especially with Matt Barnes still out.
Pau Gasol, still light as a feather against Howard, had just 11 points on 5-12. This being the Lakers third game in three days, it’s not difficult to understand why Gasol looked listless, and almost out of it. But 11 points and 4 rebounds? Those are stats typical of the Laker guards not named Kobe Bryant. They’re not the stats of a 7-foot power forward who is shooting 53% this season.
The bright spot in this game was Andrew Bynum. The match-up against Dwight Howard and the Magic was truly Bynum’s game to show up. With 17 points on 8-15 and 9 rebounds, Bynum showed grit out there with the All-Star forward and two-time defensive player of the year, but logging in longer minutes on this trip (today he had almost 30), seems to have worn on the young center. Seen holding his left knee during the game rightfully provides much worrying, but here is hoping it isn’t worse than it’s already been in the past.
The Lakers have their fourth game in five days against the Charlotte Bobcats on Valentine’s Day. It’s not the luckiest team or court for the Lakers historically speaking, but maybe they’ll be so disappointed in tarnishing a possible 7-0 grammy trip record that they’ll be invigorated rather than weary.
Pre-game Thoughts: 5 in a row? It’s as good as done if the Lakers play like they’ve been playing on this road trip – focused, aggressive basketball.
Half-time Thoughts: 41-45 – The Lakers are shooting just 40%, but they’re lucky to be down by just four points. This has been due to their five turnovers to Orlando’s 10. If not for those double digit giveaways, the Magic would be leading by more. They’re luck their three-points shooting (5-11) has been so on point. The Lakers would do good to pound the ball into Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. With Dwight Howard in early foul trouble (he already has 3), they could make up for their lack of outside shooting today (just 1-8) if they take advantage of their inside game.
Most Thoughtless Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: Lakers’ outside shooting – Artest 1-4, Bryant 1-4, Fisher 0-2, Odom 0-1, Brown 0-3, Blake 0-2 – No, the Lakers’ strength is not in their perimeter game, but 2-16? It could’ve just been a bad shooting night, or, the attempts taken were made more difficult by not being in rhythm with the offense. Either way, it needs to improve or they need to focus their entire game inside.
Most Thought-filled Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: Dwight Howard – For having three fouls after the first half, but not collecting any more in the second.