Talen Horton-Tucker with the reverse lay-up against the Magic

Three Things to Know: Lakers at Magic - 1/21/22

by Matthew Barrero

After a disappointing loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, the Lakers (22-23) open their season-long six-game road trip with a matchup against the Orlando Magic (8-38) tonight at Amway Center. Tipoff is set for 4:00 p.m. Pacific on Spectrum SportsNet.

Here are three things to know before tonight’s matchup:

LE-DO IT ALL (STAR)
As if any more evidence was needed to show why LeBron is one of the greatest basketball players all time, James achieved another milestone in Wednesday’s game against Indiana.

With his 12 rebounds, LBJ surpassed 10,000 rebounds and is the only player in NBA history to reach 30,000 career points (36,319 and counting), 10,000 career rebounds (10,002 and counting), and 9,000 career assists (9,908 and counting).

On top of that, James recorded his league-leading, 20th game with 30-plus points (two more than Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who are tied for second with 18).

James continues to lead the Lakers despite their struggles to pick up more wins and the lack of Anthony Davis, who remains out with a knee injury. Since AD’s injury, LeBron has led the team in scoring in all 15 games – the same 15 games he has scored 25-plus points.

The 19-year vet is a clear-cut All-Star and fans have taken notice. In the latest All-Star voting returns, The King finds himself at the top of the throne, leading now second place vote getter, Stephen Curry (6,019,418 votes), by 808,031 votes with just one more day left of voting (ends Saturday, Jan. 22 at 8:59 p.m. PT).

SECOND HALF FLUSTERED
With losses in four of their last five, the Lakers are looking for answers as to what is causing the inconsistent play. One continuous stat that appears to be at the forefront of the team’s woes is that of their second half performances.

Including the win over the Jazz on Monday, L.A. has been outscored 296-249 (a minus-47 differential) in the combined second halves of the last five games. Specifically in the third quarter, the Lakers have been outscored 169-117, (a minus-52 differential in scoring).

For the season, the Purple and Gold are 19th in the league in defensive efficiency (1.070) and 20th in defensive rating (110.0).

In Wednesday’s loss to Indiana, it was the fourth quarter performance of the Pacers’ Caris LeVert that set the Lakers into a spiral. LeVert scored 22 of his 30 points in the final frame alone and helped lead Indiana to a seven-point victory.

LeBron credited LeVert’s performance but felt the Lakers didn’t play poorly.

“I think in the fourth quarter, a guy got hot and exploited our game plan which can happen,” James said in Wednesday’s postgame. “You can play great defense and guy gets hot in Caris [LeVert] and he took that fourth quarter over.”

Frank Vogel tied in the Lakers inability to grab rebounds and lack of execution in their game plan was additional factor for the loss.

SET THE TONE
Orlando is at the bottom of the league and is the only team in the league without double-digit wins. Surprisingly, the Magic have a better record against teams with records above .500 (7-24) compared to those who come in as sub .500 team (1-14).

In terms of style, the Magic are not the type of team to play transitional basketball. They rank in the bottom fifth of the league in fast break points (9.7) and points off turnovers (14.2). The Lakers on the other hand are fourth in fast break points (15.0) and 10th in points off turnovers (16.4).

The Lakers can establish an identity for the remainder of the trip following tonight’s game in Orlando. In the next four consecutive matchups, the Lake Show will find themselves up against teams that are currently ranked in the top 12 in the NBA (the Heat (5th), Nets (7th), 76ers (9th), and Hornets (12th)).

LeBron emphasized his distaste in losing last game but doesn’t put blame on any player or coach. James summed up that the staff has set up a great game plan and it’s up to himself and his teammates to, “buy in and handle business.”

“We can’t even sit here and say we should be this, we should be that,” James explained. “We are a sub .500 team as it stands today, and we have to play better. We have a heck of a road trip coming up…A lot of great teams. We’ll see what we’re made of.”

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