Showtime: 6:30pm PT
Plot: Ping. Pong. Balls.
That's what this game is about. Ping pong balls.
The 19-51 Orlando Magic come to LA tonight to face the 22-46 Lakers. The Magic are on pace for their second straight top-3 pick, flailing away during yet another lost season after the departure of Dwight Howard. They're on a 8-game losing streak, including two shameful losses to the Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz, co-tenants in the league's basement. Couple this in with a 4-33 road record, dead last in the league. It's quite strange that the Magic are bad, seeing as they have a decent collection of young talent that includes Victor Oladipo, Arron Afflalo, Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris and Kyle O'Quinn. Still, they haven't quite found a way to put it all together as a team and thus, another horrid year.
Meanwhile, the Lakers are doing slightly better with what most would consider far less talent. They are the league's worst defense, negating a sometimes decent scoring attack that can light up into the 120s. But let's not even get too far into this: if you're reading this preview, you'll know just how bad this team is.
So what does this game matter? Who cares? Two rebuilding squads, one that's terrible despite their best efforts and the other that's terrible despite some young talent. This is a bad game, folks. A bad, bad game.
But in a couple months, winning this game could have massive ramifications.
Both the Lakers and Magic are "battling" for more ping pong balls in the NBA Draft Lottery, which could give both teams a shot at the number one overall pick. With their records separated by only a few losses, one or two more wins could make a big difference in terms of getting a higher pick and presumably, a better pick in a solid draft.
Neither team will admit to intentionally losing, of course, though both teams have made moves to develop their young players and give them time to play. With Glen Davis now gone, the Magic are happy to see how much Harkless, O'Quinn and Andrew Nicholson can contribute, as well as sitting Jameer Nelson in lieu of Oladipo. The Lakers will have to watch out for the latter, who could easily dice up a porous defense and of course Harris, who racked up 20 rebounds in a 114-105 win over LA back in January.
Meanwhile, the Lakers will have as full of a roster as possible at this point in the year. Steve Nash will most likely play after a fairly good showing Friday night against Washington, as well as Nick Young and Jordan Hill.
The most interesting part of this game will be who loses. That's not a good sign for anyone. But with Orlando's horrible road record and the max effort from the Lakers, we could be seeing the Show lose by winning.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino