With 7:22 left in the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s loss in Miami, the Lakers trailed 89-69 in a game that hadn’t been too competitive since early in the second quarter.
It was perhaps the first time in the young season that L.A. hadn’t brought the proper energy needed to win a game, and Mike Brown didn’t want that feeling to sit, so he brought the starters back in.
“I wanted to see our guys fight,” he explained after the game. “I didn’t care what the score was, and the way these games are, sometimes you can’t worry about the next one. I wanted to leave them out there, see them fight — and they did. It’s a confidence builder for me, and hopefully it’s a confidence builder for them.”
The starters did play better basketball in the final minutes, cutting Miami’s lead essentially in half before a 98-87 final score, even as Andrew Bynum admitted that was because Miami stopped playing as hard with the win secured. Regardless, Brown wanted to send a message about what kind of effort would be needed moving forward with the season, starting with Friday evening’s game at Orlando.
By the time the Lakers got to the team’s hotel in Disney World land, it was already 2:30 a.m., prompting Brown to cancel shootaround in favor of getting his players some rest, but his coaches continued to work on the scouting report and game plan.
With Dwight Howard anchoring the Magic middle and a bevy of three-point shooters surrounding him, L.A. has struggled to win regular season games in Orlando, having dropped three straight contests, thought it did of course win 2-of-3 games on the road to secure the 2009 NBA title.
To break the streak, L.A. knows it will have to figure out how to better execute on offense, which has been difficult while trying to adjust to a new system this season. The Lakers have been winning games with defense and just enough offense to get by, but Derek Fisher knows that will need to improve.
“We are getting really bogged down on the offensive end of the floor,” he said. “It’s going to be tough to get back into defense every time. We’ll get there. We have to remain focused on our objectives and goals. You can’t play from behind on the road in a consistent basis. We have to get off to better starts. We have to be sharp in our execution offensively.”
Kobe Bryant has averaged 25.0 points per game against Orlando in 26 career games against the Magic, though the offense out of which he’s currently getting his NBA-best 30.4 points per game he called “under construction” after the Heat loss. Four consecutive 40-point games for Bryant featured a great many touches for Bryant, and while Brown knows he can go to a that, he knows L.A. needs to have better balance on offense in the long run, causing the team to “experiment,” in Bryant’s words.
The Magic, meanwhile have been scoring a lot of points (seventh most in the NBA) thanks to strong perimeter shooting and Howard’s efficiency inside, but have allowed teams to shoot well against them, conceding 44.4 percent field goal percentage against (15th in the NBA) compared with L.A.’s 41.1 percent (2nd).
Howard leads Orlando with 20.1 points, 15.6 boards, and 2.4 blocks, while Anderson has surprised with strong averages of 17.8 points on 41.4 percent shooting from three (46 makes). Hedo Turkoglu has rebounded from a poor 2010-11, averaging 14.5 points with 4.9 assists and taking over crunch time duties, while J.J. Redick is having a career year with 12.4 points himself.
The game tips at 5 p.m. Pacific on KCAL-9 and 710 ESPN radio, and you can follow along during the action right here: Follow Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) on Twitter.