Lakers barely escape Magic at home, 106-103

Lakers get to .500 after their win over the Magic.

LOS ANGELES — The Lakers have a lot to work on.

It’s a long season so we can be patient about it. They did hand the Orlando Magic their first loss of the season in a game that was very ugly, 106-103.

It looked like it was going to be an easy day at the office as, for the first time this season, the Lakers didn’t go down in double figures in the first quarter. The Lakers looked their best in that stretch as they had a nice flow on both ends of the floor. We even got a poster dunk from D’Angelo Russell!

Apparently, it was the 21st dunk of his career!

But as I said in the game preview, the Magic were third in defense going into Monday’s game. That was in display as they erased the 11-point deficit. To go along with that great defense, Gary Harris couldn’t miss a three-pointer. He made four of them in the second period. Jalen Suggs knocked down another three to close the half as the team from Disneyworld had a 58-54 lead at the break.

Franz Wagner helped the Magic go on a 7-0 stretch to give Orlando an 80-72 lead. But Anthony Davis led the charge back as the Lakers themselves went on a 9-0 run. The Lakers led, 81-80, going into the fourth quarter.

Second chance points continued to plague the Lakers. After a rebound, Markelle Fultz immediately bolted to the rim for a lay-up. The Lakers had trouble with the Magic’s dives to the hoop and they couldn’t seem to stick with the youthful Orlando players defensively.

LeBron James would make a three-pointer to give L.A. a 101-100 lead. Jalen Suggs countered with his own three-pointer but D’Angelo punched back with his own trey.

After Russell made some clutch free throws to put them up three with 8 seconds left, Franz Wagner had his three-pointer blocked in the ensuing possession. Jalen Suggs got the board and was able to get free after Davis flew by but he missed it. I know some are advocates for fouling while up three but I’m the rare one that disagrees with that because I don’t like having to extend the game. Either way, the Lakers got the W.

I don’t know if the Orlando Magic are a play-in/playoff team this season. But they sure showed a lot of improvement from last season. They’re certainly tougher defensively. They never stop moving offensively and they get a lot of open threes (they went 14 for 35 from behind the arc, which is .400). Paolo Banchero is off to a slow start, though, and I think that’s a little something to watch for.

The same problems continue to bother the Lakers. They really miss Jarred Vanderbilt’s energy (Rui Hachimura also didn’t play due to an eye contusion). Sometimes, they look… too cool out there. They’ve struggled in every game thus far. And LeBron James played just under 33 minutes on a second game of a back-to-back. And we know that’s something to watch for as well.

On the other hand, Anthony Davis has been fantastic since he went scoreless in the second half of their season opener. Christian Wood, depending on how you view him, has been a pleasant surprise on both ends of the floor. He’s always had talent; it’s a matter of him having the motivation. And D’Angelo Russell easily had his best game of the season. They certainly don’t defeat Orlando without him as he had some clutch shots. Austin Reaves didn’t close out the game but the positive is that he shot better, at least.

I mentioned the second chance points. Orlando dominated in that department, 20-4. The Magic also had 11 offensive boards compared to the Lakers’ three. Orlando is a huge team and they definitely took advantage of their size there.

D’Lo led the Lakers in scoring with 28 points to go along with his 8 dimes. Anthony Davis missed the 20/20 Experience by one; he went for 26 points, 19 rebounds, 5 assists, and three packs (that’s what we called blocks back then). Bron had 19 points while we should acknowledge Christian Wood with his 9 points and 9 boards.

Gary Harris led 6 Magic players with 17 points. Franz Wagner had 16. Last year’s Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero only had 9 points.

The Lakers will be playing every other day for a little bit. It starts with the crosstown rivals on Wednesday; we know how much the Lakers and Clippers fans love to interact with each other.

And a 2-2 start certainly looks much better than a 2-10 start.