The Los Angeles Lakers are 7-1 over their last eight games, the best record in the NBA over that same stretch. The team is playing mostly really solid basketball, and if a 7-1 scenario during this slate was presented to fans as an option heading into the season, most probably would not have guess that the one defeat would have come against the Orlando Magic, of all teams.
That's exactly what happened of course, because the NBA is weird like that. If the Lakers want to avoid it happening again, there are some things the team will have to do differently this time around.
“Just play our game, play hard, play with the same defensive intensity we did tonight, and shoot it a little better," Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma said when asked what the keys to beating Orlando were after the team's 90-83 win over the Utah Jazz.
Kuzma isn't kidding about the shooting part. The Lakers shot 47.8 percent against the Magic, and just 33.3 percent from 3-point range. Making matters worse, they turned the ball over 14 times, turnovers Orlando capitalized on while the Lakers failed to do so on the Magic's 13 giveaways.
If the Lakers want to win, they will also need Lonzo Ball to continue his strong recent stretch of play. Since LeBron James and Rajon Rondo started telling Ball to be more aggressive offensively, he's looked like a slightly different but vastly more impactful player, averaging 12 points on 54 percent shooting (and making 50 percent of his threes) over the last two games. If Ball can keep up his strong play in the Lakers' second-straight home game, then the team will have a better shot.
There is also the matter of the Magic, well, not being all that great. They aren't AWFUL, and at 9-10 actually sit in 8th in the Eastern Conference, but they also have the 24th-ranked offensive efficiency and 18th-ranked defensive efficiency in the NBA right now, and would thus seem to be playing a bit over their heads.
They will also be going up against L.A. nightlife, which remains undefeated.
But the Lakers still can't overlook Orlando. The Lakers clearly thought they could just walk past the Magic last time, and that didn’t get them very far. When they host Orlando on Sunday afternoon, they’ll have to lock in a little harder if they want to avoid an embarrassing season sweep.