Things to watch in Lakers-Magic game
Some things to keep an eye on when the Lakers (10-6) visit the Orlando Magic (10-4) on Friday at Amway Center:
1. How will the Lakers' energy hold up? The Lakers have looked tired in their last three games -- against the Clippers, the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat -- and it remains to be seen whether that will change. The Lakers are coming off the second night of a back-to-back. Even though they entered the fourth quarter trailing Miami 77-56, Coach Mike Brown played his starters most of the final period in hopes they could compensate for lost practices. Considering how slow and unathletic the Lakers are to begin with, their execution could drop significantly should fatigue remain an issue.
2. Andrew Bynum versus Dwight Howard. Eager to learn and grow, Bynum always uses his matchups with Howard and Tim Duncan as measuring sticks for where he stands. This time around, Lakers officials will surely be viewing the matchup with an eye toward determining how intently they should pursue Howard. If Bynum holds his own, it's possible his market value increases. That could prompt the Lakers to be more restrictive in packaging a deal with Bynum as the centerpiece. In turn, Orlando may be more inclined to demand less in a trade involving Bynum.
3. Will Kobe Bryant find his sweet spots again? After scoring at least 40 points in four consecutive games, Bryant has shot 15 of 43 (34.8%) from the field in the last two games. It's pretty easy to explain why. In the four games in which he scored at least 40 points, 77 of his 172 points came from either within 10 feet or at the free-throw line.
According to Hoopsdata, Bryant went three for 12 from shots within 16 to 23 feet and zero for three from three-point range against Dallas. According to NBA Statscube, Bryant then shot five for 15 on mid-range jumpers and zero for three from three-point range against Miami. Credit Miami's LeBron James and Shane Battier as well as Dallas' Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion and Jason Terry for forcing Bryant out of his sweet spots. But it's clear that the Lakers deviated from setting up Bryant where he has been so effective.
4. Magic loses some of its outside shooting. Orlando small forward Hedo Turkogluk won't play because of back spasms. Meanwhile, shooting guard Jason Richardson remains a game-time decision because of a bone bruise in his left knee that has sidelined him for the past three games. Either case, that's a welcome sign for the Lakers. Of the Magic's high-volume shooters, Turkoglu leads the team in three-point shooting (47.8%), while Richardson follows shoots 33.3%. To the Lakers' credit, they remain seventh in perimeter defense, holding teams to shoot at a 31.2% clip. Still, Orlando's Ryan Anderson (41.4%) and J.J. Redick (38.3%) remain a threat.
5. Can Matt Barnes bounce back? His tweet regarding his performance against Miami said it all: “I played like $h!t 2nite, it won’t happen again!" That's because Barnes scored five points, got blocked on two consecutive fast-breaks and hardly could stop LeBron James. In Barnes' defense, he's been mostly consistent ever since assuming the starting small forward spot. Considering he's playing against a former team of his, expect for Barnes to bounce back quickly.
-- Mark Medina
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