One of the worst performances from the Los Angeles Lakers thus far this season happened in Orlando. The Purple and Gold were stymied by the Magic’s dynamic defensive frontcourt with Bismack Biyombo and Serge Ibaka blocking seemingly every shot in the paint.
On Sunday, the Lakers will have a chance for revenge as they host Orlando in Staples Center at 6:30 PM PST. It will be an opportunity for LA to string together two straight wins against two sub-par Florida teams after beating the Heat on Friday.
Biyombo and Ibaka will once again serve as keys to the game. The Lakers must be able to drive to the rim without allowing the two shot blockers to change the game. Whether that’s through good passing in the paint or with more patient shots at the rim, this will be key for the Lakers.
Defensively, the Lakers should be able to enjoy a relatively easy game. The Magic are among the worst offensive teams in the NBA although they scored at will against LA earlier this year. In that game, point guard Elfrid Payton had a shocking resurgence as a shooter and offensive weapon, something he has not proven to be capable of in his career. It’s unlikely that Payton shows the same level of success as long as the Lakers play average defense.
Instead the Lakers will have to focus on the post offense of Nikola Vucevic (who should be single-covered by Timofey Mozgov as doubling post players has led to far too many easy three point attempts against LA), the perimeter game of Evan “Never Google” Fournier, and the athleticism of Aaron Gordon.
If the Lakers are able to make things difficult for all three of those players or shut down at least one of them, they will have a great chance of winning this game. So long as they compete offensively at a better level than they did in December, they should at least have a chance to pull it out late in the game.