After getting crushed by the Miami Heat Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Lakers looked to rebound against the Orlando Magic on the second night of a back-to-back set but fell short in the late stages of the game.
Kobe Bryant sat out for the second consecutive night due to a back injury, as Metta World Peace took his place in the starting unit once again. For Orlando, Nikola Vucevic made his return after a three-game absence due to a bruise in his right knee, and the 25-year-old Montenegrin made all the difference.
Vucevic came off the bench in his return and supplied the Magic with much-needed offense, scoring 18 points but none bigger than the two points he scored at the final buzzer to give Orlando the win. Tied at 99 with 1.5 seconds remaining, Tobias Harris inbounded the ball to Vucevic, and the seven-footer swished home a turnaround jumper over the outstretched arms of Roy Hibbert.
Vucevic’s buzzer beater was only fitting, as it was an evenly matched, intense back-and-forth affair that saw no lead larger than seven.
The Lakers were steered by a balanced attack led by Hibbert’s 15 points, six rebounds, and three blocks. Lou Williams added 13 points, three assists, and three rebounds, and Larry Nance Jr. had 13 points on a perfect 6 of 6 shooting.
Nance, the 27th overall pick in the 2015 draft, has been incredible off the pine for Byron Scott, as he has been providing energy, hustle, and efficient scoring. Coupled with the athleticism that he possesses, Nance has become a seamless fit for the second unit, solidifying the backup power forward role.
“I love the way Larry plays. I love the energy he plays with, I love the calmness that he plays with,” Coach Scott said.
Rookie D’Angelo Russell was not too shabby either, putting in 14 points, six rebounds, and three assists, and the 19-year old even received the opportunity to close out tonight’s game. In previous games, Coach Scott was benching the youngster in late-game situations, but in this game, Jordan Clarkson was the one viewing the entire fourth quarter on the sidelines.
Julius Randle finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, and four assists on 6 of 10 shooting, and Nick Young pushed in 10 points off the bench.
Tonight’s star was Shabazz Napier, who recorded a career-high 22 points, including five triples, while Channing Frye produced 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting off Orlando’s bench. In fact, the Magic received 65 bench points on the night.
Victor Oladipo only logged seven minutes before being diagnosed with a concussion. He scored three points and gathered two rebounds. Elfrid Payton had an awful shooting night, going 1 of 13, but he grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out eight assists.
Evan Fournier concluded with 16 points, six assists, and five rebounds, as Harris notched a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
The Magic thoroughly dominated the Lakers in offensive rebounding, 23-7, hurting L.A. with second chance points. Also, Orlando was extremely clean with the ball, committing just eight turnovers leading to five L.A. points. Meanwhile, the Lakers had 14 miscues that led to 21 Orlando points.
But the real differential was three-point shooting, as Orlando was a plus-18 from that mark and shot an incredible 46.4 percent.
The Lakers are now on a three-game losing streak and have dropped to 1-7 on the season, with one more game remaining on their road trip which is against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday, November 13.
The Magic improves to 4-5 and will host the Utah Jazz in their next game on Friday as well.