Magic 89, Lakers 75: At the buzzer

The dream of an undefeated roadie, she is dead. For that matter, "dead" could just as easily describe the Laker legs throughout this game. Perhaps the length of this roadie, combined with the time of day equaled a tired, less-than-lively effort. Either way, it's not the end of the world, nor is it enough to sully a terrific roadie.

Assuming business is handled on Monday and Wednesday, that is.



As the saying goes, sometimes the ball just doesn't bounce your way. That felt like the case during this less-than-prolific showing from the Lakers. 39.3 percent from the floor, low-lighted by a wretched two-for-16 Downtown clip. Time and time again, they just couldn't make shots. Sometimes, their offense sputters due to either poor execution or decisions. But despite a slew of misses, I'm guessing my ratio of bricks-to-"What the ---- was that???!!" screams at the television would have been copacetic with Tex Winter's.

Occasionally, the rim is just unkind. Can you blame Orlando's for being biased towards the home squad?

Backcourt shooting by guards not named "Kobe" or "Bryant"

If you're looking for a central reason the Lakers shot just 40 percent (rounding up), a finger would be reasonably pointed towards the other guards. Derek Fisher entered the game in a brutal shooting slump (11-of-29 for February) and proceeded to stretch out the torture. Four shots missed in as many tries during the first half, whether launched from point blank, mid-range or beyond the arc. A couple of shots dropped after intermission, but this hardly qualified as the proverbial "catching of fire."

Shannon Brown clanged five of his six attempts during the first half, and the high-fly act was probably the only Laker I thought didn't exercise much discipline in his choices. Case in point: After Pau Gasol tracked down a badly-missed long two from Brown, the ball went back to Shannon, who immediately fired a three. No dice, either. He also drove into an obvious contest from Howard at the rim, which resulted in a "nothing but backboard" layup.

Shannon's luck didn't change in the second half, which was lowlighted by a driving baseline dunk, completely uncontested, which bounced off iron as he attempted to avoid a shot clock violation. The afternoon was rounded out with eight misses on 11 tries, plus two turnovers for bad measure.

As for Steve Blake, if he wanted to discover the proverbial "zone," I'd advise taking more than two shots. I'll say it before and I'll say it again- dude absolutely needs to take more shots.

To be fair, these guys also brought some tangibles to the table. Fisher had four assists and drew Howard's third foul in patented "nobody sells a moving pick better than me" fashion. Shannon had three steals and played with a lot of energy (arguably too much at times). It should also be noted Kobe's own percentage from the field (eight-for-18, 17 points) wasn't necessarily world beating. But given how spectacular Bryant's been of late, I'll cut the relative slippage some slack. Every now and then, he's entitled to some help, and none was provided from his fellow smalls.

Pau Gasol

After a string of "Black Swan" showings, if this doesn't qualify as an unquestionable reversion back to "white" form, it's certainly "off-white," a hue that won't get it done in a muddy game. Just 11 points on a dozen shots, plus a scant four rebounds, which played a large role in the Magic winning the board battle by 12. Worst of all, Gasol took a nap on three possessions in lieu of placing a body on Howard, all of which resulted in alley-oop dunks for the man-child. That's just inexcusable.

There were a handful of quality challenges defending the Lakers' cup, but all in all, I'm guessing Pau will gladly turn the page on this game in a hurry.

Free throw shooting

39 percent from the field: Not "acceptable," but it certainly happens. 46.7 percent from the line: That's unacceptable for a prison league team, much less the two-time defending champions of the NBA.


Andrew Bynum

As the Lakers struggled to make shots in the first half, they were kept in the game in very large part by Bynum, easily the most effective Lakers throughout the opening 24 minutes. In the first frame alone, Drew almost matched his season averages with nine points, six boards, five of which came on the offensive glass. His activity tapping or racing toward missed shots served as life blood for a team with clogged arteries, metaphorically speaking.

As the game progressed, Drew wasn't able to maintain that torrid pace, rounding out at a still-solid-but-hardly dominant 17 point, nine rebound line, with two steals and a block. Similar to his amigo Pau Gasol, he struggled to contain Howard during a scorching second half. But even if his effectiveness waned, his aggressiveness didn't change. I especially liked how he made a point of going at Dwight in the third quarter knowing the big man had three personals.

Not as positive, however, was Drew clutching his left knee during the second half. I'll keep an eye out for any pertinent updates on his health. Fingers crossed, it's nothing serious.

Care of the ball

That the Lakers lost by such a large margin isn't necessarily shocking, but the gap does raise eyebrows when you take into account the lack of turnovers. Typically, eight outside of your house is a formula for victory on the road. The first and fourth quarters were book-ended with just one gaffe apiece.