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Lakers vs. Magic Preview: First east coast trip of the season

The Lakers need to find a way to better manage LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ minutes in this road trip

Orlando Magic v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The Lakers will travel to the East Coast for the first time this season as they embark on a four-game road trip. Their first stop will be Orlando, where they will take on the Magic for the second time in six days.

Start time and TV schedule

Who: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Orlando Magic

When: 4 p.m. PT, Saturday, Nov. 4.

Where: Amway Center

Watch: Spectrum Sportsnet

In the first four games of the season, the Lakers had a tough time surviving the minutes when LeBron James was off the floor. Currently averaging 35.7 minutes to start the season, the Lakers have needed most of James’ time on the court so far, especially late in those games, to pull off their first three victories.

James’ increase in minutes, particularly after Darvin Ham noted that his playing time would be monitored this season, is both a concerning and encouraging sign. With a couple of injuries to their role players as well as their early struggles on the offensive end, the team has needed James’ scoring to get them past these games.

That's why it’s fair to wonder whether it’s too early for James to exert this much energy and have this kind of workload at the genesis of the season.

But on Wednesday night against the Clippers, the Lakers assembled a lineup in the third quarter that survived the six and a half minutes when James was on the bench. In fact, this lineup didn’t just survive the non-LeBron minutes but it also went on a run to take the lead from the Clippers.

This corresponding lineup featured the Lakers’ three bigs in Anthony Davis, Jaxson Hayes and Christian Wood. It was the first time for Darvin Ham to roll out this ultra-big lineup and it wasn’t a coincidence that it resulted in the team winning the non-LeBron minutes convincingly for the first time in five games.

The trio of AD-Wood-Hayes scored a total of 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the four and a half minutes they were together on the court, resulting in them being a plus-10. Aside from James’ and Davis’ individual brilliant performances, this lineup played a pivotal role in securing the team’s third victory of the season. Given the success of this lineup last game, it might just be a solution to survive the non-LeBron minutes moving forward.

Another solution the Lakers need to consider is how to reduce Davis’s playing time. Five games into the season, AD is averaging a concerning 40.2 minutes. A huge reason for that, to be fair, is that the Lakers have already played two overtime games. But Davis can’t keep playing 40 or more minutes every night this early in the season. The Lakers need to find a way to start blowing out teams or relying less on their big man to do everything on the court.

One way the purple and gold can do that is to stop leaving it late to earn their victories. They’ve only won the first quarter once in the last five games and have needed a late fourth-quarter surge, particularly from the superstars. The team needs to learn how to get off to good starts before their sluggish performances in the past first quarters develop into a habit.

This team also needs to find ways to put themselves in a better position to succeed. One way they can do that is to close out their opponents — especially inferior ones like the Magic — early. There’s no better way to start a road trip than by winning convincingly and saving those legs for the duration of the trip.

Let’s see if the Lakers can do that against the Magic and start their first East Coast road trip on an encouraging note on Saturday.

Notes and Updates:

  • If the Lakers want to avoid another nail-biter against the Magic on Saturday, they can’t give up 20 second-chance points like they did last Thursday. The Magic also out-rebounded the Lakers (44-40) and shot 40% from three-point range. The Lakers’ defensive activity needs to be better in this one.
  • For the Lakers’ injury report, it was reported on Thursday that Gabe Vincent (knee effusion) will be out for two weeks. This is unfortunate for L.A. as the injuries, particularly of the role players, keep piling up. It will be interesting to see if Vincent’s injury means more playing time for Max Christie or even Cam Reddish who had an impressive defensive game against the Clippers.
  • Aside from Vincent, Jarred Vanderbilt (left heel bursitis), Jalen Hood-Schifino (right patella contusion) will remain out. Rui Hachimura (concussion) will miss a third straight game while Taurean Prince (left patellar tendinitis) is questionable.
  • It seems it’s not only the Lakers that’s dealing with injury issues. The Magic are also missing key players with Wendell Carter Jr (fractured third metacarpal), Gary Harris (sore right groin) and Markelle Fultz (left knee) all out.

You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani

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