Two teams trending in opposite directions will meet when the Orlando Magic host the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night.
While Orlando has won eight of its last nine, Los Angeles has lost four in a row. The Lakers began a five-game trip with a 124-115 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.
After taking a nine-point lead into halftime, Los Angeles was outscored 51-21 during a disastrous third quarter.
“We have to know that it’s a 48-minute game; it’s not a 24-minute game,” Los Angeles coach Darvin Ham said. “We kind of took our foot off the pedal defensively. To give up a 51-point third quarter is just unacceptable. It’s completely unacceptable. That’s not who we are. That’s not who we’re going to be.”
Lakers star LeBron James scored 38 points in the loss. His seven-game streak of at least 30 points is the longest active streak in the league.
Los Angeles is being forced to rely on James minus center Anthony Davis, who is out indefinitely with a stress injury in his right foot.
The Lakers are 1-4 since Davis’ injury and have allowed at least 124 points in all four losses.
James likely will need another big showing against Orlando, which opened a brief two-game homestand with a 133-113 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday.
Third-year point guard Cole Anthony continued to impress, with 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists against the Spurs.
“Obviously, he was flirting on the triple-double, but the one thing I love the most is he didn’t chase a stat,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said. “He respected the game and just went after what we needed to win.”
Franz Wagner added 21 points, while rookie Paolo Banchero had 18 points and six rebounds.
Orlando also received a spark from center Wendell Carter Jr. and guard Gary Harris.
Carter returned after missing 18 games due to plantar fascia. He tallied eight points and four rebounds in 19 minutes and is eager to contribute to a team on the upswing.
“The sky is the limit for this team,” Carter said. “I’m just excited to be part of it.”
Harris had nine points in 21 minutes against San Antonio after missing 11 games with a right-hamstring strain.
Orlando’s formidable front line of Bol Bol, Moritz Wagner, Mo Bamba and Carter could create problems for Los Angeles, which lacks a consistent inside presence without Davis.
Center Thomas Bryant is averaging 10.8 points and 5.4 rebounds in 13 games this month, but James clearly needs more help from teammates. At 13-20, the Lakers are looking to avoid their third five-game losing streak of the season.
Ham said James’ leadership is keeping the team afloat. The four-time MVP is averaging 27.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 6.6 assists in 36 minutes per game.
“My hat’s off to him,” Ham said. “It’s tough times right now, tough circumstances. But at the end of the day, you know, we just have to keep mashing forward. He’s the prime example of that. Just his ability to come out game after game after game and put up the type of performances he’s putting up.”
–Field Level Media