Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday evening contest against Dwight Howard’s old team with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Morris, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Howard
Magic: J. Nelson, A. Afflalo, M. Harkless, G. Davis, N. Vucevic
3:19 In L.A.’s blowout Friday win over Denver, Antawn Jamison was fantastic with 33 points and 12 rebounds off the bench. He was back at it early in this one, draining his first three-pointer (he was 5 of 10 vs. the Nuggets) to put L.A. up 18-17 early. The team’s energy wasn’t terrific, Orlando at times the more aggressive team, which isn’t a huge shock considering their interest in going at former teammate Dwight Howard (at least the guys who were on the Magic roster last season).
0:00 Back-to-back hoops near the rim from Kobe Bryant and Jamison produced a 27-23 lead for the home team, as five players had at least four points, led by six from Pau Gasol. Howard controlled the backboards, grabbing seven boards, while Bryant’s three assists showed his increased role as a playmaker in the absence of Steve Nash and Steve Blake.
6:36 With two Kobe free throws, the Lakers pushed their lead to nine at 42-33. Leading the way on offense was Gasol, who spent most of his time orchestrating the second unit offense from the low block, reaching 11 points with five rebounds and a pretty assist to Jamison in the process.
0:00 The Lakers buried 17 triples against Denver to match a franchise record for a regular season game, but on this night, they’d taken only seven and hit just two. Meanwhile, the defense relaxed far too much for Mike D’Antoni’s liking, allowing Orlando to tie the score at 52 with a buzzer-beating triple from Arron Afflalo. Kobe had 17 in the half, plus three assists and five boards, but the general letdown especially on D is the kind of thing that’s haunted the Lakers in games they shouldn’t lose … stay tuned.
6:29 A piece of history for you, folks: Metta World Peace drained his 999th and 1,000th three-point shot, becoming one of only 68 players to do so in NBA history. Joining him are teammates Kobe Bryant (1,537) & Steve Nash (1,621). However, L.A. found itself tied with the Magic at 64, despite the inferior talent, as the starters struggled to find rhythm.
1:22 Yet another MWP triple in the third got L.A. sparked, and a pretty Bryant alley-oop to a spinning-off-his-man Howard preceded Kobe’s technical free throw* to cap a quick run that put the Lakers up 76-69. The quarter would close with the home team up 77-73.
*Called on former Laker Josh McRoberts – incidentally one of my personal favorite dudes in the league – for elbowing Howard in the back.
6:13 After the second unit went on a 7-0 run to open a 6-point lead, the bottom dropped out once again, Orlando reeling off a 9-0 run of its own to reclaim the lead at 86-84 into a time out after a Nikola Vucevic (USC’s own) and-1 dunk through traffic. That trouble brewing at halftime was now extremely evident.
3:20 After Howard missed two free throws the third time Magic coach Jacque Vaughn opted for the Hack-a-Howard strategy, Jameer Nelson drained back-to-back three-pointers, adding on to the triple JJ Redick hit on the previous possession to suddenly put the Lakers in a 12-point hole. They played with fire by allowing Orlando to set the tone early, not taking advantage of several opportunities to build leads, and were facing a ninth loss directly in the face.
0:00 Orlando ended up with an unacceptable 40 fourth quarter points, enough to bury the Lakers 113-103, sending the home team below .500 at 8-9 on the season, including five home losses. Kobe managed 34 points, 10 coming late in the fourth, Howard a 21-point, 15-rebound double-double, but he made only 9 of 21 free throws and didn’t dominate on defense (Nikola Vucevic went for 17 points and 12 boards). It certainly won’t be a happy group of Lakers on the plane ride to Houston (then New Orleans, OKC to follow) tomorrow. We’ll see you there.