LeBron James, Russell Westbrook Lead Lakers to Bounce-Back Win over Magic

Erin WalshJanuary 22, 2022

ORLANDO, FLORIDA - JANUARY 21: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives on Cole Anthony #50 of the Orlando Magic during a game  at Amway Center on January 21, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers bounced back from a 111-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday with a 116-105 win over the Orlando Magic on Friday at Amway Center to move to 23-23 on the season.

The Purple and Gold were without Anthony Davis for the 16th straight game as he continues to recover from an MCL sprain. They have been struggling in his absence and are now 7-9 since Dec. 19. 

Friday's win doesn't necessarily mean much for the Lakers moving forward as the Magic own the worst record in the NBA, sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings at 8-39. However, a loss would have been deflating for the team, which entered the 2021-22 season with NBA title hopes. 

And while the Lakers won Friday night, they are far from competing with the Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies and Utah Jazz for the top spot in the West. But regardless, a win is a step in the right direction. 

Notable Stats

LeBron James, SF, LAL: 29 PTS, 7 REB, 5 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK

Jalen Suggs, SG, ORL: 22 PTS, 4 REB, 9 AST, 2 STL, 2 BLK

Russell Westbrok, PG, LAL: 18 PTS, 11 REB, 7 AST, 3 STL

Franz Wagner, SF, ORL: 15 PTS, 3 REB, 3 AST, 2 BLK

Carmelo Anthony, PF, LAL: 23 PTS, 3 REB, 1 BLK

Gary Harris, SG, ORL: 13 PTS, 4 REB, 2 AST

Russell Westbrook Responds to Benching With Efficient Outing

After shooting just five of 17 from the floor and four of six from deep for 14 points, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel opted to bench Westbrook in the final minutes of Wednesday's loss to the Pacers. 

The 33-year-old told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski after the game that he was disappointed with the benching and was still committed to "figure s--t out and do what's best for our team to win in the long run."

And it certainly appears Westbrook has turned that disappointment into fuel as he responded with a much better effort on Friday against the Magic, finishing with 18 points on 8-of-17 shooting (47 percent) from the floor.

Westbrook was traded to the Lakers in a July trade from the Washington Wizards. L.A. is the fourth team he's played for in four seasons, so it's not necessarily surprising that he has struggled to find his footing, especially on a Lakers squad that has seen plenty of turnover in the last year. 

The two-time scoring champion entered Friday's game averaging 18.5 points, which is his lowest scoring output since his second season in the league in 2009-10, in addition to eight rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

Regardless, Friday's performance is undoubtedly something for Westbrook to build upon. The Lakers were plus-11 with him on the floor, and it was one of his more efficient games of late. 

As L.A. looks to build momentum in the coming weeks, his performance will be crucial if it wants to make the postseason. 

Jalen Suggs Has Best Performance Since Returning From Injury 

While the Magic didn't win Friday night, Suggs certainly did as he put together his best performance since returning from a fractured thumb Jan. 14.

The 2021 fifth overall pick finished with 22 points, four rebounds and nine assists on 6-of-16 shooting from the field and 1-of-7 shooting from deep. It was an impressive performance, especially considering Cole Anthony, the 15th overall pick in 2020 finished with just four points, four rebounds and two assists in 28 minutes.

Friday's game also marked Suggs' highest scoring output since a Nov. 19 loss to the Brooklyn Nets, a game in which he had 21 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals. 

Suggs' performance helped Orlando enter halftime with the lead over L.A. And the Magic stayed right with the Lakers through the third quarter thanks to the 20-year-old. However, the Lakers, with their veteran talent, were able to pull away in the fourth quarter.

Orlando Magic @OrlandoMagic

QB1: <a href="https://twitter.com/jalensuggs?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@jalensuggs</a> <br>WR1: <a href="https://twitter.com/wendellcarter34?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@wendellcarter34</a> <a href="https://t.co/hcXHdvqyVx">pic.twitter.com/hcXHdvqyVx</a>

Orlando Magic @OrlandoMagic

tuff finish <a href="https://twitter.com/jalensuggs?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@jalensuggs</a> <br><br>πŸ“Ί: <a href="https://t.co/ATC9NrTJF4">https://t.co/ATC9NrTJF4</a> <a href="https://t.co/O4ZUID0x36">pic.twitter.com/O4ZUID0x36</a>

While the likes of Jalen Green, Evan Mobley, Cade Cunningham and Scottie Barnes are getting the most attention of the 2021 draft class, Suggs is undoubtedly making a name for himself in Orlando.

The Gonzaga product entered averaging 12.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists for a Magic team that's been hammered by injuries.

And while the Magic almost certainly won't make the postseason this year, allowing Suggs to play every possible minute to continue his development will be key.

Orlando has one of the youngest rosters in the league with Suggs, Anthony, Mo Bamba and Franz Wagner, among others. Continuing to get those guys reps will only help the team moving forward.

What's Next?

The Lakers will travel to face the Miami Heat on Sunday, while the Magic will host the Chicago Bulls.