NBA Matchup: Los Angeles Lakers @ Orlando Magic

Los Angeles Lakers at Orlando Magic Sun. Feb. 13, 2011 3:30 p.m. EST

A few days ago, the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers were surrounded by trade rumors involving the Denver Nuggets superstar forward Carmelo Anthony. With the Lakers struggling against the best teams in the league in the first half of the NBA regular season, the rumors started to circulate around the league that the defending champs were ready to send Andrew Bynum to the Mile High City in exchange for the All-Star forward.

Coming into Thursday matchup against the arch rival Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers were considering their second matchup with arguably the best team in the league as a way to see where they stand. In their first meeting, the Lakers were able to keep up the Celtics through the first half, but where then dominated in the second half and lost in convincing fashion. This loss was one of the main reason for the Lakers getting mentioned in numerous trade rumors around the league.

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Fortunately, in their second with the Celtics in Boston, the Lakers were able to come out on top with solid performances from Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and most importantly Andrew Bynum. With this win over Boston, the trade rumors have started die down a bit, but they could just as easily ramp up again if they lose to Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic this Sunday.

A win over the Magic would be huge and quite possibly just what the Lakers need to regain some momentum moving forward. Even though Kobe Bryant and company seem to have gotten that edge back with the win over the Boston Celtics, the Orlando Magic are another beast entirely in terms of how they play the game compared to the Boston Celtics.

The Orlando Magic may not be playing at the high level that the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics are playing right now, but they are still one of the best teams in the league and have a legitimate shot of being NBA Finals bound at season’s end. With that being said, they will give the defending champs a run for their money on Sunday, especially since it will be the Lakers fifth game of their seven game road trip.

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The Celtics play with the philosophy of spreading the ball around and getting the best possible shot on every single possession. The easiest shot is the best shot for Doc Rivers’ squad, but the Magic play a little different as they are basically a team with a dominant center in Dwight Howard surrounded by perimeter shooters.

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The one glaring problem for the Orlando Magic is the fact that they struggle when Dwight Howard can’t get going inside the paint. When that does happen, they kick it out to their perimeter shooters and start jacking up threes all night long.

With that being said, I believe the Los Angeles Lakers will be extremely tough matchup for the Orlando Magic as Dwight Howard will be surrounded by players like Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. Along with the Lakers clamping down inside the paint, Kobe Bryant seems to be back to form and will be nightmare for the Magic’s guards.

This could ultimately turn out to be a close game, but in the end the defending champs should come out on top and continue their resurgence as a legitimate title contender once again. This will mark the first regular season matchup of two between these NBA heavyweights with their next meeting being in Los Angeles on Mar. 14.

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