Here is what you need to know before the Lakers don their MPLS uniforms against the Orlando Magic.
1) Randle continues to dominate down low
It has been a large enough sample size to confirm that Julius Randle has taken the next step as a scorer.
On the season, he is averaging 15.2 points on a 56.1 field goal percentage that ranks ninth in the entire NBA. But his last 14 games have been even more impressive.
During this stretch, he has boosted his scoring average to 20.4 while actually increasing his efficiency with a 59.2 percent clip.
Randle has made at least half of his shots in 11 straight games, as opponents haven’t found a way to consistently defend his mix of power and speed.
2) Offense is looking to regain footing
After a 5-0 start to the post-All-Star Break slate, the Lakers’ offense finally sputtered against a Portland squad that is arguably playing the best defense in the league.
The Lakers had averaged more than 121 points post-break until managing just 103 versus the Blazers, on a 39.5 field goal percentage that was their lowest since late December.
In spite of this, the Lakers’ offense is still off to a strong start in the last stretch of the season.
Before the break, they ranked 26th in offensive rating (102.8). After it, they are fifth (113.1).
Much of this has to do with the play of Lonzo Ball, who finally had a quiet game against Portland. Plus, Isaiah Thomas — who also slipped versus the Blazers — has done a nice job of running the second unit.
3) Orlando can’t be overlooked
Theoretically, this Magic squad is an ideal team to bounce back against. They are just 1 1/2 games out of last place in the entire NBA, and they are 27th in terms of defensive efficiency.
But the Lakers have fallen in this exact trap before.
Five weeks ago they strolled into Orlando and were dealt a 22-point loss. The Lakers’ defense collapsed in that game, allowing the Magic to shoot 54.3 percent from the field.
L.A. will need to take its opponent more seriously this time around.
Fortunately for the Lakers, that loss seems to have helped turn the season’s tide. Since falling to the Magic, they have gone 9-4.
Lakers: Brandon Ingram (left groin strain), Josh Hart (left hand fourth metacarpal fracture) and Channing Frye (appendectomy) are out.
Magic: Rashad Vaughn (sore right knee) is questionable. Terrence Ross (sprained right MCL, non-displaced fracture of right tibial plateau) is out.
Tip-Off: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet and Spectrum Deportes in L.A.
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: MPLS Classics
Location: STAPLES Center