Postgame Report: Magic vs. Lakers (3/23/14)

Tobias Harris

By John Denton
March 23, 2014

LOS ANGELES – The gulf between the NBA’s Western Conference and Eastern Conference has never been greater than this season. That can be seen firsthand in the standings where two West teams are in line to win 60 games and six more have a shot at 50 victories. Conversely, in the East there could be two teams to actually make the postseason with losing records.

The rebuilding Magic have certainly had their troubles with the powerhouse teams from the Western Conference. Not only have the Magic won just four times in 28 games against the West, they failed to win a game west of the Mississippi River all season.

Orlando fell to 0-15 on the road against teams from the rugged Western Conference when the cellar-dwelling Los Angeles Lakers pulled away in the fourth quarter of a 103-94 victory at Staples Center. For the Magic, it was a second loss in as many nights and offered a frustrating conclusion to a winless four-game road trip.

``It should bother us,’’ said Magic forward Tobias Harris of Orlando’s road woes. ``As a team you never want to lose games. To me, to keep losing (road) games, it’s really frustrating.’’

The Magic (19-52) lost for a ninth straight time when they ran out of gas in the decisive fourth quarter. Orlando clawed out of a big hole early in the game and got to within two points by the start of the fourth quarter. But a night after losing in Utah on a last-second 3-pointer by Jazz rookie Trey Burke, Orlando could never get over the hump against a middling Lakers team sans Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash and is similarly anticipating the May 20 NBA Draft Lottery.

``I look at it as I want our guys playing well, and playing well on a consistent basis. But we’re not there yet,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``We’re continuing to grow. The challenge is for us to be consistently locked in (home and away) on every single possession.’’

Even in defeat, rookie Victor Oladipo played well at the point guard spot with 21 points and 10 assists. However, Oladipo did tie a season-high with eight turnovers. In all, Orlando had 20 turnovers that led to 21 points for Los Angeles (23-46).

Los Angeles native Arron Afflalo chipped in 18 points, while Harris had a second strong game against the Lakers with 16 points off the bench.

Lightly regarded center Jordan Hill outplayed Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic (four points and 11 rebounds) and Kyle O’Quinn (14 points and seven rebounds) with 28 points and 13 rebounds. Mercurial guard Nick Young also poured in 26 points, including a step-back 3-pointer with 3:23 to play to ice the game.

Orlando whipped the Lakers in January in Central Florida for one of their four wins against a Western Conference team. The Magic beat New Orleans and the Los Angeles Clippers early in the season at the Amway Center and topped Oklahoma City in buzzer-beating fashion in February.

But they had no success against the West on the road. Success away from Orlando period has been difficult to come by Orlando’s youth-filled roster. The Magic have the NBA’s worst road record at 4-34 and they have won only once away from home this calendar year.

``It’s just tough in the NBA when you’re not a great team and you’re trying to be a better team and it’s tough on the road,’’ Oladipo said. ``A lot of things just have to go your way, especially in the position that we’re in.’’

The Magic, who weren’t scheduled to arrive back in Orlando until after sunrise on Monday morning, are back at the Amway Center on Tuesday night to host the Portland Trail Blazers. The game is the first of a four-game home stand against Charlotte (Friday), Toronto (Sunday) and Cleveland (April 2).

Orlando climbed to within two of the Lakers by the end of the third period by getting a lift from bench players Doron Lamb and Dewayne Dedmon. The Magic outscored the Lakers 25-20 in the third period by forcing L.A. into six turnovers for 10 Orlando points.

Other than a short span bridging the first and second quarters and the closing minute before intermission, not much went right in the first half for the Magic. Orlando trailed 55-48 at the break in large part because of their 11 turnovers and giving up three and-ones and a four-point play with careless fouls. The Magic’s turnover woes allowed the Lakers to get off seven more shots in the first half.

Orlando took a brief 30-29 lead in the second quarter before the Lakers answered back with a 17-2 run to give them a 46-32 lead. L.A.’s lead swelled to as much as 15 points early on.

Harris and Oladipo got off to great starts a night after struggling in Utah. Harris made just one of nine shots on Saturday, but he poured in 12 points in Sunday’s first half. He picked up where he left off in January when he pounded the Lakers and reserve forward Ryan Kelly for 28 points and 20 rebounds.

Oladipo, who started again at point guard in place of Jameer Nelson (sore left knee), looked much more comfortable initiating the offense. He had assists on five of Orlando’s first eight field goals and he poured in nine points with six assists in the first 24 minutes.