Orlando Magic vs. L.A. Lakers: Preview, Analysis and Predictions

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Orlando Magic vs. L.A. Lakers: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
Harry How/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers welcome the Orlando Magic to the Staples Center Sunday night in an attempt to string together two wins to bust their record above .500.

Los Angeles has mixed up very good and very bad games over the course of the Mike D'Antoni era, winning their first three, followed by two rough losses on the road and then two wins in their past three games.

The biggest problem has been consistency for the Lakers, which has shown in their three most recent games.

Sandwiched in between two offensive explosions, scoring 115 against the Dallas Mavericks and 122 against the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles lost a 79-77 game to the Indiana Pacers. It's been a confusing struggle.

They get a chance to continue on their offensive exploits against a wishy-washy defensive team.

 

Time: 9:30 P.M. EST

TV: NBATV

Records: Los Angeles (8-8), Orlando (5-10)

 

Key Storyline: Dwight Howard vs. the Orlando Magic

It's not Dwight Howard returning to Orlando, so the story isn't going to be nearly as hyped as it will be in March, but it's Howard taking on his old team.

There won't be any chorus of boos raining down on Howard, but we get to see the awkward handshakes between him and Jameer Nelson, Glen Davis and everybody else still with the Magic that was part of last season's debacle.

He's got a chance to lay the smackdown on the young Nikola Vucevic and looks to continue on a moderately hot clip after averaging 12 rebounds and 20 points over the past three games. Plus, he'll be taking on a bunch of smaller guys with a ton of chances to block shots.

Howard isn't going to be too phased by actually playing his old teammates, but it's going to be something to talk about.

 

Key Matchup: Pau Gasol vs. Glen Davis

We've got a matchup of two extremely different power forwards who have been alternating moderately good games with terrible basketball showings over the course of the first month of the season.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Gasol gets a chance to tower over the shorter, stouter Davis, while Davis gets the chance to body up a weak-kneed Gasol. It should be an interesting matchup of differently disadvantaged basketball players.

The Lakers have limited Gasol's touches along the way, even sitting him at the end of some very big games, while the Magic have been so desperate for scoring that they've let Big Baby go crazy, putting up 15 shots per game.

If one of them can get the upper hand on the other, it could be a huge advantage for their team. But that's probably not going to be the most likely scenario.

Gasol is going to continue to play as well as his knees allow, while Davis is going to struggle shooting over the taller Gasol, leading to a handful of points but a poor shooting percentage.

 

X-Factors: Antawn Jamison and J.J. Redick

We get to see a stellar faceoff of two gunners off the bench, with J.J. Redick and Antawn Jamison coming into this one on very different trajectories.

Jamison comes in after alternating terrific games with terrible games. He scored 19 points and pulled down 15 rebounds against the Mavericks, got just three points and four boards against Indiana and then exploded for 33 points and 12 rebounds when the Nuggets came to town.

It's clear that Jamison is going to be a big part of D'Antoni's offense moving forward, and when he's hitting his shots it seems that the Lakers are unstoppable.

Suddenly he's awoken and looks like a terrific rebounder when he's active and putting up more shots, but in a slower-paced, defensive struggle he's an absolute disaster.

Depending on the style of this game, we could see either side of Jamison's abilities, great shooting or terrible defense. Hell, we'll probably just get both.

Meanwhile, J.J. Redick comes into this one after struggling in two straight games. In around 25 minutes in the past two games, Redick has two points and four assists against the Brooklyn Nets and then seven points and four assists against the San Antonio Spurs.

He's obviously more effective when he's coming in and hitting three-pointers, but where he works well is as a distributor with the second unit, especially since the backup point guard is Ish Smith.

If Redick is shooting well, the Magic have a chance of keeping this game close if it turns into an up-tempo score-a-thon. If not, then the Magic don't have a chance.

 

Prediction

The Lakers are coming into this one after showing off some impressive running-and-gunning ability with two wins in the past three games, and I'm betting that the on-one, off-one pattern doesn't continue against the Magic.

Orlando is on a three-game losing streak, they just played on Friday and had to spend Saturday traveling across the country to Los Angeles. There's no way they come out fresh against the Lakers in this one.

Kobe Bryant is coming off a sub-par performance against the Nuggets, scoring just 14 points on 15 shots, but my money says he has another good game Sunday night.

Los Angeles Lakers 114, Orlando Magic 96.

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