There could only ever be one prevailing storyline about tonight's game, because tonight's opponent is the Orlando Magic, a franchise that has been linked to the Los Angeles Lakers for the last 15 years. That's when a dominant center left Orlando with nothing and came to the Lakers to cash in on his super-sized ability. Fast forward to the present day, and it appears as if history is primed to repeat itself. This time around, however, the only way Dwight Howard leaves the Orlando Magic for the Los Angeles Lakers is if the Lakers provide a pound of flesh themselves, in the form of (at least) Andrew Bynum.
Tonight, both teams get a first hand account of what exactly their possible future teammates look like. Will Andrew Bynum attempt to impress against Dwight Howard? Will Orlando's bevy of outside shooters entice the Lakers to be more willing to part with Pau Gasol? Or will both team's weaknesses make themselves apparent, leading one or both sides to wonder if a deal is in their best interests? They say the grass is always greener on the other side ... tonight, you have both teams looking across the pasture at each other and wondering just how true that cliche is.The Lakers, for their part, come in somewhat desperate to prove they aren't a complete bottom feeder on the road. At 10-6 on the year, the Lakers are just short of the winning pace they've displayed in each of the last two seasons, but any encouragement drawn from that fact quickly dissipates when one considers how terrible the Lakers have played on the road. The purple and gold are 1-5 in contests not played on their home court (including a loss in Staples to the LA Clippers), and have often looked pretty despondent in those losses. One could point out that the Lakers have faced some primo competition on the road, with losses against the Nuggets, Trailblazers, Clippers and Heat all understandable when considered as single game entities. But, at some point, a good team finds a way to be competitive against good teams on the road, and the Lakers have failed that measure pretty significantly.
The task doesn't get any easier tonight. Orlando, for all the potential for drama and turmoil in a squad that has to know it's days are likely numbered, is a team filled with decent players who (and this is an important lesson the Lakers could probably learn) compliment each other perfectly. Scratch that, they don't compliment each other perfectly, they compliment Dwight Howard perfectly. As in they can all shoot. ALL of them. When Dwight gets doubled, and the ball gets kicked out to the perimeter, it doesn't matter which guy ends up open from the perimeter, chances are that guy has the skills necessary to bury the shot. Contrasted with the Lakers, and their historically bad, league worst, three point shooting, and one has to wonder if acquiring Dwight Howard is even a good idea for this team. I already have.
The Lakers do have an advantage over the Magic, however. A numerical one, as it turns out, as in the Lakers have two great big men, and Orlando only has one. Therefore, Pau Gasol should be able to do work against Ryan Anderson and friends while Dwight Howard is occupied with Andrew Bynum. One hidden gem of last night's drudge was that Gasol was as aggressive as he has been all season, putting up season highs in points and field goal attempts. If Gasol can do the business once again, and Bynum can keep Howard from demanding the double team, well, let's just say the Magic might be a much better, more manageable, matchup for the Lakers then that other Florida team.
Let's hope so, because the Lakers are pretty desperate for a win that stands out on the road. Hell, they're pretty desperate for a win period.