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Lakers toughness too much for the mentally weak Magic

March 15, 2011

Derek Fisher can beat you up

Despite playing excellent basketball in the first half, the Orlando Magic fell to the Los Angeles Lakers and their stern defense by a score of 97-84 on Monday night.

The Magic came out aggressive on both offense and defense and it resulted in a 5 point lead.  In the third quarter though, the Magic would completely collapse against the swarming defense and length of the Lakers.  LA was slapping and poking on every defense possession and was always a half step ahead of Orlando mentally.

That poking and prodding led to Orlando committing 18 turnovers and taking probably just as many bad shots. Dwight Howard, who the Lakers aggressively double and triple teamed all night had 9 of those turnovers.  It’s easy to criticize the Magic for being careless with the ball, but the turnovers were more of a result of the Lakers defense than anything else.

The issue at hand is one we’ve seen often before.  When the Magic face a good defensive team and those teams start getting scrappy, then the Magic generally fold.  You see it against L.A, Boston, Miami and even with Chicago lately.  All teams that are capable of playing elite, shut-down D just have a way of getting into the heads of the Magic players and it not only shuts down the flow of the offense, it seems to shut off rational decision-making.

The 18 turnovers is very bad obviously, but it’s the lack of penetration and settling for three pointers two feet beyond the arc that is most troublesome. The players going one on one and forgetting that team basketball is what makes them an elite club.  In the first half, you saw the Magic as an elite club. In the second half, they were the Atlanta Hawks. Bad body language, inability to get stops when it counted and a general lack of mental toughness.

  • Derek Fisher played one of his best games of the year, finishing with 15 points on 6-9 shooting.  Although it was his stellar defense on Jameer Nelson that made the biggest difference. Fish hounded Jameer all the way up the court and forced Jameer to be called for 3 offensive fouls that kept Jameer off the court when the Magic needed his scoring and leadership.  Chris Duhon played 17 minutes against the Lakers because of Derek Fisher’s scrappy play. Enough said.
  • The other big night for the Lakers came from Andrew Bynum. Bynum tied his career high in rebounds with 18 and truly manhandled Dwight Howard on the boards. He came over Dwight’s back several times, WITHOUT fouling, to snatch up offensive rebounds and save extra possessions for LA.  Bynum finished with only 10 points but his 18 rebounds and 4 blocks in only 27 minutes was HUGE for the Lakers.
  • Dwight Howard had a relatively normal night for himself statistically, but he was still taken out of the game for the most part by the length of LA’s big men and the hard crashing double teams.  He had 22 and 15 on the night, but for a rare night… he looked inferior in the inside.  Several of Bynum’s 9 offensive rebounds came from Dwight chasing down blocks instead of staying home with Bynum.  Dwight normally has the freedom to do what he wants in the paint, and to chase those blocks, but against L.A. it’s just a bad strategy.  He has to be able to adapt and SVG should have been screaming it to him the whole game.
  • Ryan Anderson got the start for the Magic over Brandon Bass.  SVG felt like Ryan matched up better against Pau Gasol (23 points) and that Brandon matched up better against Lamar Odom (16). I liked the move by Stan and thought Ryan held his own for most of the game but due to substitutions and foul problems, the matchups were often switched.
  • The loss of J.J. Redick in the rotation (abdominal strain) is seriously hurting the Magic.  The Magic were forced to play Jameer and Gilbert together tonight as well as Chris Duhon and Gilbert.  That just isn’t a fun night.  Especially as Gil is continuing to play so up and down. Tonight was a definite down for him and he finished with 0 points and 1 assist in just under 14 minutes.  The loss of J.J. not only deprives the Magic of one of their best perimeter shooting, but also their best perimeter team defender. Those little things count a lot.
  • The Lakers are now 10-1 since the All-Star break and the Magic are 6-5. Which team is elite?

The Magic are back in action on Wednesday to conclude their 5 game road trip against the Milwaukee Bucks.  Game time is set for 8pm EST and will be televised locally on Sun Sports.

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