Here is what you need to know before the Lakers take their four-game winning streak into a meeting with the Orlando Magic.
1) LeBron went into supernova mode last game
The Trail Blazers entered STAPLES Center on Wednesday with a four-game winning streak and one of the NBA’s best defense. Then LeBron James shredded both of those.
Portland had no response for James, who sizzled outside, bulldozed inside and could not be kept from the foul line. He finished the night 13-of-19 from the field, 5-of-6 on 3-pointers and 13-of-15 on free throws, dropping 44 points — the most by a Laker since Kobe Bryant’s 60-point final game.
LeBron’s scoring feast catapulted him into second in the NBA in scoring (27.6), behind only Stephen Curry (29.5).
James thrived in a two-man combo with Lonzo Ball, which spoke to how his overall game was equally as impressive as his scoring. LeBron finished on the cusp of a triple-double with 10 rebounds, nine assists and three enormous blocks.
But make no mistake: The highlight of the night was James’ brilliance as a scorer, as he also passed Wilt Chamberlain for the fifth-most points in NBA history.
2) All hands on deck to replace Rondo
The Lakers have won six of their last seven games, but will have to try to carry on their success without Rajon Rondo, who broke his hand against the Blazers.
Rondo — who is expected to miss the next 4-5 weeks — has been crucial to leading the Lakers’ second unit, as he ranks second in the NBA in bench assists (5.6).
More will be asked of Ball, who has been starting at point guard and providing a bit of everything — with averages of 8.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 38.1 percent 3-point shooting.
Fortunately for the Lakers, the roster has been constructed with a surplus of playmakers, including James, who ranks ninth league-wide in assists (7.2).
Brandon Ingram and Lance Stephenson are a couple of wings with successful experience running point for the Lakers, so look for them to take turns piloting different lineups.
3) Orlando is hitting its stride
The Magic started the season just 2-6, ranking last in the NBA in field goal percentage, while shooting the second-worst 3-point clip.
But since, Orlando’s shooters have heated up — ranking among the league’s top six in both categories over their following seven games, which have included five wins.
Several players have stepped up, including Aaron Gordon (averaging 20 points in this stretch) and Terrence Ross (hitting 49 percent on 3’s in the same span).
But the biggest difference-maker has been Nikola Vucevic, who dropped 30 points in Wednesday’s win over Philadelphia. The USC product has been a bonafide three-level scorer this season — 73 percent at the rim, 48 from mid-range and 44 on 3s — and leads the league in made hook shots thanks to his crafty post game.
Lakers: Rajon Rondo (right hand, third metacarpal fracture) is out. Isaac Bonga and Johnathan Williams are on G League assignment.
Magic: Timofey Mozgov (sore right knee) is out.
Tip-Off: 4 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: Gold Icon
Location: Amway Center — Orlando, Florida