Lakers – Magic Running Diary

As always, feel free to refresh your browser for live updates throughout the game … On second thought, I guess they wouldn’t technically be “live” updates since you have to press refresh. But whatever.

Lakers: Jordan Farmar, D.J. Mbenga (meaning Sun Yue is active)
Magic: Adonal Foyle, Mike Wilks, Jeremy Richardson

At Orlando is arguably L.A.’s biggest test of the season to this point.

Sure, going to Denver, Dallas and New Orleans early in the season wasn’t easy, but that was before the rest of the league seemed to get wind of L.A.’s trapping defense. As Stu Lantz mentioned in our game preview, the Magic are a team that can take particular advantage of a trapping defense, with Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, Keith Bogans and Jameer Nelson all having the ability to knock down the three. If L.A.’s forced to double Dwight Howard and leave shooters open early – or if the Magic are simply knocking down threes regardless of L.A.’s defense – the visitors will clearly be in trouble and battling from behind for much of the night.

On the other hand, perhaps this is a game that Andrew Bynum takes as a personal challenge, and shows more than a few flashes of brilliance in negating Dwight Howard? Perhaps guys like Lamar Odom and Sasha Vujacic pick up their games in Farmar’s absence and give the Lakers a spark? We’ll see in a few minutes…

Your starters:

Lakers: Fish, Kobe, Luke, Pau and Bynum
Magic: Jameer Nelson, Keith Bogans, Hedo Turkoglu and Dwight Howard

First Quarter
0:00 For those curious, Amway Arena’s media food ranks in the bottom three in the NBA. Nothing personal.

11:32 Bynum was called for a personal foul for about the same amount of contact Howard gave him on the other end (no foul was called).

10:55 There’s No. 2 on Bynum. Pretty much the exact opposite of what we talked about in the pregame, and what L.A. needed from Bynum. Odom had to check in, and the Magic will surely now force-feed Howard down low. The only good news here for the Lakers is that Odom can match up better defensively on Lewis than anyone else.

9:22 While the Lakers had scored six points of their own, Turkoglu’s three was Orlando’s second in the first few minutes. so the two things that L.A. needed to focus on – not giving up threes and keeping Bynum out of foul trouble – went decidedly the other way.

8:14 So, if you take out Orlando’s two threes and Bynum’s two fouls, the Lakers actually looked pretty good. L.A. contested each shot near the lane, forcing four misses, and Bryant scored six of L.A.’s 10 points heading into the first timeout. L.A. made 3-of-7 shots and all four free throws with just a turnover.

7:00 Gasol definitely got hacked by Howard on the block, as the Lakers continued to go at the big center, but again didn’t get the foul (as Bynum hadn’t earlier). Clearly, the refs are letting Howard use his physicality, but don’t seem to be extending the same offer to Bynum/Gasol. At the other end, Lewis nailed a three to cap a 6-0 run out of the timeout. Unlucky break there for the Lakers.

5:58 Howard finally pushed his luck a bit. Fisher attacked the rim, and Howard came over to rake him in committing his second foul. Well, at least he got five fouls out of the two that were called… On came Marcin Gortat, the Polish center who’s averaging about 3.0 points and 3.2 boards this season.

5:23 Mikael Pietrus, who missed 11 games with a torn ulnar collateral ligament (whatever that is) in his right thumb, checked in for Orlando prior to a nice driving layup from Odom to make it 15-13 Lakers. Pietrus came over from the Warriors as a free agent signing, is from France and enjoys pastries. And Rene Descarte.

3:27 After a fierce Ariza put-back slam, Kobe contributed a slick and-1 off the glass to put L.A. up 20-16. From my baseline seat, it’s tough to make out a small section of the right side of the court, meaning I couldn’t see Ariza’s body until he was well above the rim hammering it home. I’m not saying he was like Hiro on “Heroes,” but that though popped in my mind when he appeared from nowhere. By the way, they’d best find a way to unkill Kristen Bell. Seriously, NBC.

1:36 L.A.’s been very active defensively, which is certainly a good sign for Lakers fans, and on the court helped keep Orlando to 35.3 percent shooting and 18 points. Meanwhile, Bryant connected on two free throws to give him 11 points, and Vujacic came into the backcourt with Fisher on the bench. Yet and still, both Ariza and Odom handled the ball after Fisher checked out minutes earlier, and it seems L.A. will go point guard by committee (which they can do with the triangle).

31.9 Fantastic finish at the rim for Kobe, whose 13 points more than double the nearest Magic player (Nelson had six). The Magic did manage to hit consecutive shots in their final two possessions to draw within one at quarter’s end, 24-23.

0:00 The recipe for a good first quarter? A great job of contesting threes and handling Howard after Bynum’s two fouls and Orlando’s 2-of-2 from deep start, plus a very effective, slashing Kobe Bryant, who took nary a deep jumper to get his 13. You think Kobe knew he had to take on more of a load tonight, which meant more attacking?

Second Quarter
10:00 Great start to the second quarter to a second unit composed of Fisher, Vujacic, Ariza, Radmanovic and Gasol. After Vladi scored on a slick cut to the basket past token-defense-playing Brian Cook, Vladi came up with a steal near midcourt, took two dribbles and let loose a fierce dunk, as if in frustration towards his recent bench time (or just because he had an open dunk … whatever). That capped an 8-1 start to the second that put L.A. up 32-24.
10:30 Howard’s third foul came on the offensive end, when he tried to clear Gasol out of the lane and Pau slid back about 27 feet. Not happy with the call, Howard started to whine, and the never-hesitant Joey Crawford hooked him up with a T.
7:35 Checking in moments earlier, Bryant somehow got a double-clutch layup to fall with Howard in his face to put L.A. up 35-27. Here are a few things you could have done from home whilst Bryant was in the air: brush your teeth and swish with fluoride rinse; watch an episode of “The Hills”; fold your laundry.
6:51 L.A.’s really doing a great job of closing out on Orlando’s threes. The latest close outs, first from Bryant on Lewis and then Ariza on sub Courtney Lee, produced a turnover as Lee stepped out of bounds. Bryant responded with a jumper at the other end to put L.A. up 39-29.
5:29 After Joey Crawford called Bynum for traveling despite the fact that Bynum didn’t move his pivot foot, he made up for it by calling a tech on ‘Drew for looking at an official. The Magic then reeled off four quick points to draw within four at 42-28.

3:55 Fisher went on a personal five-point scoring streak by first nailing a three and second taking advantage of a transition mismatch with Tony Battie to put L.A. back up nine. Fisher was 4-of-5 for 11 points plus two dimes and a board to that point.

3:29 Bryant’s in Mamba mode … After another great play at the rim, and this has to be the best Bryant has looked. That gave him 21, and at the 2:33 mark, he nailed a jumper in rhythm to make it 51-41, and give him 23 points.

2:10 A weird possession for Orlando gave Lewis the chance to hit an open three, as he grabbed an offensive board over two Lakers, who then dispersed while thinking the others would stay to cover Lewis. Bryant responded with another bucket, however, to keep the lead at nine.

42.4 Even when things haven’t gone L.A.’s way in the first half – like when Lewis finished an and-1 that was probably on the floor – the Lakers have responded. This time, Fisher blew past Nelson and finished plus that harm at the rim for his 14th point, which kept the lead at nine. That’s 39 combined points for L.A.’s starting backcourt.

0:00 Before the game, I wondered if Bynum, Odom or Vujacic would really step up and lead the Lakers. But instead, it was Kobe and Fish, plus some very good team defense, that enabled a 58- 49 halftime lead in an arena that has seen the Magic win 10-of-13 games. The Magic did manage to hit 6-of-14 threes, but most were contested, while Dwight Howard struggled to get anything going against L.A.’s interior defense, Bynum or no Bynum. Howard only played eight minutes, in the process putting up just two points and two rebounds. Bynum wasn’t any better, scoring three points (on and and-1) with no rebounds in five minutes.

But what I keep thinking about is a (I’m making this up) pregame meeting where Kobe put his arm around Fisher and said, “OK Fish, we got this one. Let’s carry the young fellas.” And Fisher was like … “That’s what I was thinking.” Fish played almost 23 minutes, and Bryant 20, by the way.

Other keys to L.A.’s first half: taking care of the ball (five turnovers, six Magic points off); offensive rebounds (seven); the boards (25-17 edge); poor Magic free throw shooting (11-of-20).

Third Quarter
9:57 Some sloppy Lakers play on both ends helped the Magic cut the lead to three, thanks to back-to-back threes from Lewis and Nelson. We probably could have guessed that Fisher and Bryant weren’t going to keep the Magic down by themselves … Some other Laker will need to step up. Bynum? Pau? Trevor?

8:27 The Magic began to force-feed Howard on the block, feeding him balls like he were in the batting cage. After he drew Bynum’s third foul, he was grabbed by Fish on the same possession and converted 1-of-2 free throws to make it 60-58 L.A.

7:16 After Ariza’s three answered a thunderous Pietrus alley-oop, Bynum chose to hack Howard before last year’s Slam Dunk winner (Superman, what) even put his shot up. That’s four fouls. L.A. did follow with two Bryant free throws and a very solid defensive possession.

6:02 Nelson hit a nice floater in the lane over the outstretched fingertips from Gasol to bring Orlando within four at 68-64 heading into a Lakers timeout. In other news, I think the Magic would have a strong darts team, other than Howard, who would be a terrible teammate. Sure, he’d be funny and maybe intimating to your opponents, but would you want him going for the bullseye with the game on the line? No. First of all, his hands are too big; secondly, he’s a terrible foul shooter; third he dips in and out of focus. But give me Nelson, he’s the opposite of those things.

5:14 Ariza earns the Lakers lots of extra possessions with his length. Defensive steals are obvious, and show up in the stat book, but what doesn’t show up is a play like he just made, where he went up for a board that Orlando should have easily controlled and forced one of the white shirts to knock it out of bounds. Possession: L.A.

3:33 The second of Kobe’s back-to-back threes, answering two Magic threes in the past two minutes. Both were with Pietrus draped all over him, and both were converted while jumping straight up with no momentum. That’s 35 points and seven boards already for the MVP.

3:02 Another technical, this time on Gasol, for arguing a play from moments ago when Howard appeared to foul him. Lewis hit the free throw, Bryant missed a J and Nelson swished another three (his third of the quarter) to tie the game at 78. Nelson, who had eight points at the half, now has 23, and Fisher (31 minutes) must be getting tired of chasing him around.

0:42 Fisher hit another jumper, this time from 18-feet, to give him 21 points for a new season high. Lewis answered in the closing seconds, however, to give the Magic and 85-84 lead. As such, Orlando outscored the Lakers 36-26 in the period behind 13-23 shooting, including 6-of-12 shooting from three.

L.A. began to tire from so fiercely contesting triples throughout the quarter, which enabled the Magic to get better looks than they had been getting in the first half. You can mention that the Lakers played a tough game last night and the Magic had it off, or that the home crowd is pushing Orlando on, but Phil Jackson won’t be buying any of that.

Fourth Quarter
11:36 Dear Keith Bogans: Reaching in on Kobe Bryant doesn’t work. Thus your five fouls in 20 minutes, including that one.

10:40 Another quick foul from Bynum on Howard. I’m not sure I get it, but let’s try. First of all, Bynum’s simply not moving his feet well at all. Did he step on gum? Secondly, the Lakers have barely posted him up on Howard at the other end, which doesn’t make much sense since Dwight had four fouls early in the third quarter. Therefore, Howard doesn’t have to work on defense, and has more energy when posting up on offense. Bad sequence.

9:14 Who knew the operative words when Jameer Nelson checked into a game would be “Uh oh.”?

8:52 Another bad sequence for L.A.: After Odom stole an inbounds pass, Gasol missed a gimme-lay up with Nelson on him, and Howard immediately answered with a little hook for a four-point swing.

8:22 There’s Nelson. Another jumper, and a 91-86 Magic lead, their biggest of the evening. Here’s what we haven’t talked enough about this half: Orlando is absolutely swarming Bryant with double teams, and really doing a great job of keeping him out of the paint. Bryant once found Gasol for a dunk, but otherwise took quite a few contested jumpers. That’s certainly helped the Magic climb back in. Furthermore, the Lakers have gotten next to nothing from Bynum (five fouls, three points and a rebound).

6:41 Horribly difficult shot from Fisher again goes down – this time with Nelson draped all over him and the shot clock ticking down. 92-92. By the way, it was a three. From 26 feet.

2:14 Jump ball coming between Gasol and Howard after a timeout. The teams basically traded baskets (or, Howard kept making 1-of-2 free throws) to get to 99-98, while continued to battle the world wide web, which had no interest in staying connected in Amway Arena. I mean, when do you think NBA arenas will call whoever’s running STAPLES Center and find out how to get an internet line that works consistently? Is it 1999?

1:34 Huge shot from Turkoglu after Odom missed an open three.

1:23 Bigger shot from Fisher to tie the game. Wow has Fish been special tonight. That’s 27 points in 40 minutes.

1:04 After Bogans missed a baseline jumper in which I was the closest person paid by the Lakers to him from under the basket, the Lakers just couldn’t grab the rebound, and Howard drew a foul and actually hit the resulting foul shots for a two-point lead.

45.7 Odom went over Lewis’ back on Fisher’s missed jumper, putting Lewis at the foul line. Jackson put Bynum in for Odom as Lewis missed the front end of two free throws. Magic 104, Lakers 101. Bryant then drew a foul as he was again aggressively double-teamed well ahead of the three-point line, allowing two foul shots to trim the lead back to one and give the Lakers a chance to get a stop.

22.4 Fisher drew an offensive foul from Nelson. What a cagey, wiley, vet play that was. Draped all over Orlando’s point guard, Fisher went over top of a screen, and threw his head back when Nelson tried to clear out with his elbow. He probably got knicked, but either way, a fantastic play. Lakers now with a chance to take the lead. Kobe, anybody?

3.5 Not Kobe. After drawing three defenders, Kobe kicked to Vujacic with about five seconds left, and his shot rimmed in and out the exact same way Bryant’s game-tying attempt had the night before in Miami. Ridiculous. The ensuing foul put Howard at the free throw line, and the 57-percent free throw shooter swished both. Three-point Magic lead, 3.5 seconds on the clock.

0.00 The inbounds play was drawn up for Kobe, and after coming around a curl to receive the pass, he flung up a bomb from near the sideline, just drawing iron before Howard cleared the board from high in the air.

Final Score: 106-103 Orlando, giving L.A. its first two-game losing streak of the season. Kobe finished with 43 points in 41 minutes, Fisher 27 points in 41 minutes, but it wasn’t quite enough.

Millimeters, in fact, as Sasha, Kobe and the rest of the team will be thinking about until Memphis on Monday.