The short-handed Los Angeles Lakers will try to squeeze out another win against a rebuilding franchise when they host the Orlando Magic on Sunday night.
Playing their fourth straight game without stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers ended a four-game losing streak with a 100-86 win against the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.
Like the Cavaliers, who bought out two-time All-Star center Andre Drummond on Friday, the Magic traded their three best players on Thursday in a major rebuilding move.
Nikola Vucevic, another two-time All Star center, was traded to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter and two future first-round picks.
Orlando also sent Evan Fournier to the Boston Celtics in exchange for Jeff Teague, and Aaron Gordon went to the Denver Nuggets for Gary Harris, R.J. Hampton and a future first-round pick. The Magic waived Teague on Saturday.
Vucevic, Fournier and Gordon were the top three scorers for the Magic, combining for nearly 59 points a game.
“We are going to be younger,” Orlando coach Steve Clifford said. “I think guys like Otto Porter, Gary Harris, they can do for the younger guys a lot of the things (Vucevic) did for them. You definitely need that, and I think it’s wise to understand that there could be some tough stretches in games when you have all younger guys on the floor.”
The new lineup for the Magic won’t need to prepare for James or Davis, however.
James has missed the past four games with a high-ankle sprain, and Davis has been sidelined since mid-February with a calf injury.
Both will be unavailable against Orlando.
James was injured in a 99-94 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on March 20, and the Lakers proceeded to lose their next three as well, matching their longest losing streak of the season.
Los Angeles regrouped against the Cavaliers on Friday night, getting 24 points and 10 rebounds off the bench from Montrezl Harrell.
“We have to play next man up,” Harrell. said. “We can’t look forward to two, three weeks or whenever (James and Davis) come back. We’re not just looking to hold on or keep our head above water. We’re looking to get wins.”
The Lakers have dropped to fourth in the Western Conference standings and entered Saturday just 1 1/2 games ahead of the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers for fifth and sixth.
They face additional challenging games next week against the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers, both third in their respective conferences.
Lakers guard Wesley Matthews told reporters after the win against the Cavaliers that Los Angeles has the pieces to hold it together until James and Davis return.
“Everybody has a voice out there, everybody has knowledge,” he said. “When you lose two superstars … it’s always already a team game, it becomes more of a team game.”
The Magic didn’t have their former players or new additions in a 112-105 loss to the Trail Blazers on Friday night, forcing Clifford to keep some players on the floor longer than he preferred.
Clifford is hoping his team can begin to find chemistry on Sunday and take shape of what they may look like in the future.
“To have a chance to play better on Sunday, the (new) guys have to get acclimated,” Clifford said.
–Field Level Media