Things You Already Know:
After signing former Sonics forward Rashard Lewis to a lucrative contract in the offseason, expectations in Orlando were off the charts. At 31-19 and an incredible 19-10 on the road, the Magic have risen to the occasion and currently have a commanding 6.5 game lead over the second-place Washington Wizards in the Southeast Division.
In their first meeting this season in Los Angeles, the Magic defeated the Lakers 104-97 behind Dwight Howard’s 17 points and eight rebounds to go along with 18 from Lewis. Kobe dropped 28 for L.A. and Lamar Odom had one of his better all-around games of the year with 19 points and 17 boards, but no other Lakers stepped up to the Magic during their pivotal fourth quarter run.
Things You Might Not Know:
Although he won’t be joining teammate Howard in New Orleans for the All-Star game, Hedo Turkoglu is having a career season for the Magic, averaging nearly 20 points, six rebounds and five assists per game. Moreover, Turkoglu has been an exceptional performer in the clutch this season as evidenced by his recent game-winning shot against the league-leading Celtics two weeks ago.
Like the Lakers, the Magic also run a high-octane offense, averaging almost 104 points a game compared to the Lakers’ 107. While the Magic Big Three of Howard, Lewis and Turkoglu lead Orlando’s charge, Jameer Nelson (11 points), Keith Bogans (nine points) and Keyon Dooling (eight points) all play significant roles for Orlando. (Nelson has recently fallen out of favor as Carlos Arroyo starts at the point)
Former Laker Maurice Evans—included in the trade that sent him and teammate Brian Cook to Orlando for Trevor Ariza—has done well in his reserve role for the Magic, averaging over eight points a night in 22 minutes. Brian Cook has struggled to find his niche with the Magic though, scoring only four points in just over nine minutes of play.
Things You Need To Know:
The Magic are one of the best teams in an Eastern Conference that is without much in the way of competition. However, despite their outstanding success on the road, the Magic have a very pedestrian 12-9 record at home.
In their first matchup, the Lakers had Andrew Bynum in their arsenal, but to be fair, that game came early in the season before Bynum established himself as one of the best up-and-coming centers in the league. This time around, the Lakers will be without #17’s services, but will have newcomer Pau Gasol at their side. How Gasol and the rest of the Lakers’ front line are able to handle Howard down low will likely prove critical to the outcome of the game.