Lakers Magic Preview
In the Lakers-Nuggets preview, I said it was critical for the Lakers to get greater contribution outside their cast of stars; Antawn Jamison and Jodi Meeks more than answered the bell. The duo combined for 54 points, including 12 three-pointers in their thumping victory over Denver on Friday night. The dominant win not only got the Lakers back to .500, but also brought about the first true offensive juggernaut performance of the season, one in which Lakers’ fans had been hoping for since D’Antoni came on board on November 12th.
Furthermore, tonight’s showdown against the Orlando Magic marks the first game for Dwight Howard against his former team. Dwight recently admitted that he could’ve handled a few things better during the “Dwightmare” saga in Orlando, but is still excited to play against his former running mates. If the Lakers wish to get back over .500 tonight, they’ll need to establish Dwight Howard early, while continue to get sustained bench production.
Emotions are high for Howard as he plays against the Orlando Magic for the first time since joining LA. However, he’ll need to harness that emotion into production for the Lakers to come out victorious tonight. Advanced metrics show that when Dwight is on, the Lakers are undoubtedly a much better team.
First off, D-12 is the main cog in the middle for a Lakers squad that ranks 5th in the NBA in defensive rebounding factor and eighth in effective defensive percentage. Not to mention, his 166 free throw attempts and 45 block shots are first and third in the league respectively. These stats are great, but don’t even tell the whole story. In the eight Laker wins, Dwight’s offensive rating was 114, compared to a 97 offensive rating in Lakers losses (for the record, his offensive rating in losing efforts would’ve been lower if it wasn’t for an outlier of 147 in a loss against Portland). Thus, when D-12 asserts himself offensively, the Lakers are much more likely to win ballgames compared to when Dwight is not a main factor in the offense.
Coming off the heels of monster games from Jamison and Meeks, the Lakers still rank second to last in the NBA in bench scoring at 23 points per game. To be fair, this minimal production can be partly attributed to the injuries to the “All-Steve” backcourt, Nash and Blake. But even with those injuries, the Lakers have shown the potential to have a strong bench presence, especially in their victories. The Lakers’ bench scores roughly 31 points per game during wins and only 15 points per game during losses. That’s more than double the scoring production on games when Lakers win compared to when they lose. For a team that’s led by superstars like Kobe, Dwight, and Pau Gasol, getting contribution from outside sources is a highly important factor in the Lakers turning around their season.