Recap: Lakers ride their defense to win over Magic

Los Angeles Lakers v Orlando Magic
ORLANDO, FL – DECEMBER 11: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers handles the ball against the Orlando Magic on December 11, 2019 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Lakers defeated the Orlando Magic in their first game of a five game road stretch, winning 96-87. Despite a 17 point lead at the end of the first quarter (in which the Magic scored 9 points total), the Magic never went away as the Lakers struggled to get going on the offensive side of the ball throughout, with the Magic matching the Lakers’ energy on defense all night.

The Lakers were without Kyle Kuzma tonight, but nonetheless it was a relatively disappointing performance considering the Magic were without Nikola Vucevic and Markelle Fultz, but the journey is not as important as the destination, and the Lakers now sit at an NBA-best 22-3.

On a night where not many Lakers were able to get going offensively, LeBron still managed to get a triple-double and Anthony Davis was able to make his presence known with a 16 point 12 rebound double-double. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was the only other Laker with above 10 points, and came up with some big baskets when the Magic wouldn’t go away. The Lakers received a huge boost from their bench on a night where they desperately needed it, with none of the unit having a negative net rating. Nobody on the bench had more than 9 points, but they all found ways to contribute, whether it be through rebounding or their defense.

Los Angeles came into the matchup off the back of their two highest scoring totals of the season (136 against Portland and 142 against the Timberwolves), so their offensive output was frustrating on the night. A huge reason for the win was their offensive rebounding, as they totaled 12 to Orlando’s 8. Coming into the game, the Lakers ranked 22nd in the NBA in offensive rebounds with 9.7 per game, and 12th in offensive rebounding percentage (28.0), so it was encouraging to see that when the offense wasn’t flowing, the team was still active crashing the boards and found a way to win. They also prevented Orlando, the NBA’s 7th best offensive rebounding team at 10.7 OREB per game, from getting too many second chance opportunities.

The special part about this season so far has been that the Lakers have found a number of different ways to come away with wins, despite not quite putting it all together in one neatly wrapped package thus far. When the offense hasn’t flowed, the defense has found another level, and when the defense has struggled, they’ve often scored with ease. Considering this was only the 25th game this version of the Lakers has played together, they have showed remarkable cohesiveness and have made it work. Once they’re able to find that perfect mesh of offense and defense, it’s going to be even harder to beat this team than it is now.

The Lakers continue their road trip on Friday when they head south to take on the Miami Heat at 4:00 PM PST.

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