If Andrew Bynum continues to play defense and rebound the way he has since the All-Star break, the Lakers will be a very difficult team to beat yet again come playoff time.
Bynum scored 10 points, grabbed a game-high 18 rebounds, and blocked four shots, as the Lakers overcame a five-point halftime deficit and pushed their way easily past the Orlando Magic 97-84 at Staples Center on Monday night.
The Lakers are 10-1 since the All-Star game, and continue to play well against the league’s elite teams. The win on Monday pulled the champs (48-20) virtually even with the Dallas Mavericks (47-19) for second in the Western Conference standings. Both teams are 6.5 games behind the San Antonio Spurs.
Kobe Bryant, playing despite a sore right ankle, scored 16 points, but struggled shooting just 7-19 from the field. He only needed to play a little over 30 minutes on this night however. Pau Gasol scored a game-high 23 points, Lamar Odom had 16 points and seven rebounds off the bench, and Derek Fisher chipped in 15 points. The Lakers had five players score in double figures.
The Magic were able to stay ahead early thanks to some hot shooting from the three-point line, and the Lakers’ inability to put the ball in the basket. In fact, the Lakers shot just 27% in the first quarter, but trailed only by six (25-19) thanks to the second efforts on the boards by Bynum, who had nine offensive rebounds for the game.
The Lakers trailed 46-41 at the half, but took over defensively in the second half. The game was still close after three quarters with Los Angeles nursing a 71-66 lead, until the Lakers’ reserves put together an 18-5 run against the Orlando starters to push the game to 85-69 with just over seven minutes left. The Magic were never able to get closer than 11 points the rest of the way as the two-time defending champs cruised to the victory.
Dwight Howard had 22 points and 15 rebounds, but did most of his damage with the game out of reach, and Bynum on the bench. He also turned the ball over a horrific nine times. He was also nowhere near as dominant as the first time the two teams met in Orlando, and was rejected near the rim twice by Bynum, a sign that this would be no easy night for the All-Star.
Jameer Nelson and Ryan Anderson each scored 13 points, and Hedo Turkoglu added 12. Orlando got just 13 points from their bench, including an 0-6 performance from the field from Gilbert Arenas, who continues to have a disastrous season since being traded from Washington earlier this year.
For the game, the Magic did out shoot the Lakers from the field, 47.1% to 43.8%, but the Lakers’ shooting woes were mostly in the first half. They shot over 50% in the second half. Los Angeles outrebounded Orlando 41-39, including 14-6 at the offensive end. The Magic as a team turned the ball over 18 times to the Lakers’ five giveaways. Orlando did make 10-23 (43.5%) from beyond the arc, but struggled after a hot start.
Monday’s win was the first of seven straight home games for the Lakers, as they continue their strong push towards the playoffs. They now get four days off until they host Minnesota on Friday night.