Looking to build on back-to-back wins, the Lakers begin their first extended road trip of the season in Orlando with a rematch against the Magic whom they were able to fend off this past Monday in Los Angeles. The game tips off at 4:00 p.m. PT on Spectrum SportsNet and Spectrum SportsNet+, with the pregame show starting at 3:00 p.m.

Below are three things to know ahead of the matchup:

The Lakers have been a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde team this season, falling behind early in nearly every one of their first five games only to show strong resolve in fighting back into each game to make it competitive again in the 4th quarter.

This bears out in the stats, with the Lakers showing some of the NBA’s most extreme splits between how they perform in the first halves of games vs. how well they are playing the second halves of them:

  • 1st half: 99.6 offensive rating, 116.3 defensive rating, -16.7 net rating
  • 2nd half: 117.2 offensive rating, 101.6 defensive rating, +15.6 net rating

To better contextualize these numbers, the Lakers currently rank 29th in net rating for the first half of games, but are 3rd in the 2nd half, and their 32.3 net rating differential between halves is the biggest gap in the league.

There are many potential explanations for this, be it a veteran-led team learning what works and what doesn’t over the course of the full game, the coaching staff adjusting their game plans and tweaking things to optimize success, or the shifting of lineups later in the game to account for the groupings that have had the most success.

That said, for the long-term success of the team, finding ways to perform better early in games is preferred to always needing such strong performances later to come back and get the wins the team has gotten. Assuming the team can continue to play well as the game goes on, making more headway in the 1st and 2nd quarters can also help manage the minutes of LeBron and Davis, not requiring them to extend their shifts late as much as they have in the team’s first five games.

Beyond the team playing their best basketball in the 2nd halves of games, narrowing the scope further shows the Lakers have truly excelled in the clutch so far this season.

Four of the team’s five games have featured “clutch” minutes by the NBA’s definition (score within five points, with five or fewer minutes left in the game), with the Lakers boasting a 3-1 record in those contests — tied for most such wins so far.

Further, the Lakers’ 26 clutch minutes played are the most in the NBA so far. And while this sample isn’t huge, it is roughly 10% of their total minutes played this season and the team is proving adept at winning those minutes at a healthy rate. Among teams that have played at least 10 clutch minutes so far this season, the Lakers +19.7 net rating ranks 4th overall.

On an individual standpoint, it’s the Lakers superstar duo of LeBron and AD who have led the way in these clutch minutes. Davis has played in all 26 of the Lakers clutch minutes and he’s shooting 50% from the floor, has made all his FT’s, and has 11 rebounds (three offensive). LeBron, meanwhile, has played in nearly 25 minutes, is shooting 75% from the field, has made all his FT’s, and has grabbed 10 rebounds of his own (all defensive).

The Magic return home from their West Coast road trip that saw them go 2-2, dropping both games in Los Angeles (falling to the Clippers a night after losing to the Lakers). A good showing for a young team that, now back at home, will look to exact some revenge for their loss to the Lakers last Monday.

If the Lakers are going to stop them from getting the win, they will again need to slow the Magic’s dynamic forward duo of Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero. Those two combined to shoot 9-31 from the field, including going 3-12 from behind the arc. And while the Lakers cannot expect both to shoot as poorly this game as they did in the last one, finding ways to make their lives harder by keeping them out of the paint and shooting jumpers against strong contests can help limit their respective efficiency.

On the other end of the court, the Lakers can try to exploit their own advantage inside by featuring Anthony Davis. AD went for 26 points and 19 rebounds last time, while connecting on 12 of his 18 attempts from the field. The Lakers did a good job of using AD as a screener, and then diving him into the post against switches and late recovering defenders where he could get the ball and do damage close to the rim. Finding ways to continue to exploit the Magic’s interior defense should be a priority, particularly with Wendell Carter Jr. (broken finger) out.

In other Magic injury news, Gary Harris (groin) will also miss this game and Markelle Fultz is questionable. Harris’ outside shooting was a key ingredient for Orlando’s offense last Monday (6-6 from the field, including five three-pointers), while Fultz shot creation, passing, and athleticism are important connecting skills for this team.

The Lakers, of course, continued to deal with their own injury woes. Jarred Vanderbilt, Rui Hachimura, and Gabe Vincent all remain out with their ailments, while Taurean Prince will miss another game with the sore knee that led to him being a late scratch vs. the Clippers. With so many front court players out or (potentially) limited, the onus will once again be on Davis and LeBron to carry, the load, but also on Christian Wood, Jaxson Hayes, and Cam Reddish to step into larger roles.

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