Talen Horton-Tucker goes to the basket against Orlando

Lakers at Magic, Three Things to Know: April 26, 2021

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

The Lakers (35-25) face the Orlando Magic (18-42) in the third game of a 4-game trip on Monday at 4 p.m. on Spectrum Sportsnet.

Below are three things to know about the matchup:

COHESION VS. DEPTH
The true depth of the Lakers roster has been tested like that of few other teams this season. Frank Vogel has at least 13 players that have a valid case for key rotation minutes. But it’s very difficult to play more than 10 players in the NBA, and en route to the 2019-20 title, only nine Lakers played at least 10 minutes per game. Keeping some guys that are out of the rotation in enough of a rhythm to be called upon in a playoff series does seem to be Vogel’s priority, though, which is the same thing last year, especially in the seeding games. And he’s had to do so this season due to all of the injuries.

That may hurt the continuity and rhythm of the group in the short term, because it’s simply easier to come together when players are used to their teammates. But key absences have made that nearly impossible this season, and thus, Vogel’s had to use the entire roster, something that should benefit L.A. in the postseason once again even if it makes some regular season games harder to win. Against the Magic, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the lone question mark in terms of availability, and Ben McLemore started in his place last game.

ORLANDO’S YOUTH MOVEMENT
The Magic traded arguably their three best players, and certainly their three best offensive players, when Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier moved at the deadline, mostly in exchange for young players and picks. In their Sunday evening loss to Indiana, Orlando played five rookies, including starters Cole Anthony and Chuma Okeke. They’ve understandably struggled to win games, and come in on a 5-game losing streak having lost 11 of 12 overall. They did, however, give the Lakers all they could handle on March 28 in a game without both Anthony Davis and LeBron James, and prior to Andre Drummond’s arrival. Dwayne Bacon led the way with 26 points and eight boards, while Okeke pitched in 14 points with six boards.

AD’S RHYTHM
Anthony Davis returned to twice face Dallas after more than two months off the court rehabilitating his strained calf, and his rhythm failed to come on the offensive end, as he went a combined 7 for 29 from the field, numbers that we may never see again in a 2-game sample size. He seemed determined to find the range on his jump shot, but it wouldn’t come, no doubt due in part to his game legs having yet to return, as expected. Most of his shots were short, and he hit only 2 of 16 jumpers on Saturday.

Meanwhile, his defensive rotations weren’t as sharp as they typically are in the second half, but those are things that will get better each game as his minutes continue to go up. He can always go down to the post and get some closer looks, particularly against a smaller Magic front line in which Okeke, a 6’8’’ PF, would have to guard him if Orlando starts the same way it has of late. Regardless of shot selection, expect to see a Davis that looks more like Davis against the Magic.

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