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Orlando Magic Preview 3/7

So, I have some good news for you, and some bad news.  Seeing that we've had enough bad news the past two nights, I should do you a favor and give you the good stuff first.  But unlike our Lakers, I'll give you a heads up and let you know the crap is coming first.

Fresh off back to back losses, in which defense and effort were non-existent, respectively, the Lakers get a Sunday afternoon marquee against Finals opponent, the Orlando Magic.  For those of you who feel the Lakers are just bored and riding it out until the Playoffs, this is the perfect game to peak L.A.'s interest.  Nothing like a nationally televised game against a contender to wash away the stink of two bad losses.  Considering how bad the Lakers were on Thursday and Friday, it sure better be the case.  Play bad, then worse, then the Magic?  Whoo-hoo!

That's not really the bad news though.  The game's on ABC.  That means we have to listen to two and a half hours  of Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen bore us to death with their shtick about the Lakers' lack of focus.    Or Lack of fire.  Passion.  Energy.  Whatever.   All of that, plus Jackson's repeated sayings and overstatements that would make Bill Walton blush, Jeff Van Gundy's tangents, and Mike Breen's lack of enthusiasm for the big plays.  This is after the treat (sarcasm) of Stu Scott, Mike Wilbon, and Jon Barry.  Yay.  I'm thinking it's time to get acquainted with the mute button.  I mean it this time.

Some kind of good news after the Jump...

The good news is that we haven't lost 3 straight games since Pau arrived.  It's even better that they have to restore some shine on national television.

Problem is, we don't know which Lakers we'll see.  Every time you think they're ready to put this thing together for the stretch run, they come out flat.  If there's a cause of concern heading into the Magic game, it should be the Lakers complete lack of desire to guard the 3-pt line lately (especially Kobe).  We know that's what the Magic like to do.  Maybe the Lakers are really trying to rope-a-dope the Magic by letting Miami and Charlotte shoot at will.  Maybe their secret plan is unleash some wicked perimeter defense not worth the heat and Bobacts, then force Dwight to beat them.  That would imply the Lakers big men are going to try protecting the rim. 

Who knows?  I just don't know what to think game to game.  Will we defend?  We Kobe's shot fall?  Will the Lakers stop turning it over?  Will Pau man up for good?  Will  Andrew Bynum rebound better?  I just don't know night in and night out.  I don't like that feeling.  So, I'll go with what history shows us.

History shows us Phil Jackson's teams peak when it matters - heading into the Playoffs.  Or that the Lakers relish statement games like Sunday's, that big games tend bring out the man in Pau after he's been embarrassed, that they haven't lost 3 games in a row with Pau.  Blah, blah, blah.  Let's hope these things stay true.

Expect a fight tomorrow.  The Lakers looked very tired against Charlotte.  Given that it was a back to back following a a night in Miami, no less, it's understandable (not forgivable).  The Magic will probably look exploit that lethargy by running every chance they can on defensive rebounds.  Rebounds Dwight Howard will probably gobble up.    Dwight's offense is just getting better, meanwhile Andrew's and Pau's defense seem to have regressed.  Howard's strength is going to wear on the Lakers' bigs, and most likely, put them in foul trouble is they play anything like they did in Friday.  Expect Dwight to have a great game.  That's fine.  The Lakers can handle that as long as Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, and Jameer Nelson are held in check.  This game will have to be won on the perimeter by Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, and Derek Fisher

Lamar typically defends Rashard well.  Ron Artest should shut down Vince.   Provided he covers him, which I expect.  Vince has started to find his groove lately, but most of his damage has come in throwback mode where he pretty much just goes iso.  Nothing comes in the flow of what the Magic naturally do offensively.  That only plays to Ron's strengths.   Let's just hope Jameer Nelson continues his what has been an inconsistent season for him.  Winning two of those three match-ups will do.  What I really hate to admit is, the real key is whether Kobe is going to watch Matt Barnes or Mickael Pietrus launch 3's all game?  They won't hesitate to take them, and won't miss them if left wide open.  It would be nice to see the DoberMamba.

If it sounds like I'm down on the Lakers, back to back losses will do that.  Especially since the Lakers haven't really been dominant since early in the season.  We shrugged it off then, but the cushy home start has really been put into perspective.  At this point in the season, losses are understandable.  But the road games or back to backs can't keep being used as an excuse in this quest to repeat.  The Lakers are going to have to be better in those situations than they've been.  They're going to have to better than last year, and that just hasn't been the case yet.  But our competition has gotten better.

"At the end of the day..."  the Lakers still have the second best record in the NBA regardless.   of not playing what we know isn't their best basketball.   We were at this same point last season.  Things will get better, and tomorrow I expect the Lakers to make our weekend a little better also.

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