LOS ANGELES — The Lakers badly needed a win, even against the NBA’s worst team. They succeeded.
The drama circling around the NBA’s glitziest franchise was pushed back a bit after a 116-105 Lakers victory Friday over the Orlando Magic.
What You Need To Know
- The Lakers successfully started a six-game road trip after overcoming a sleepy first half
- Many eyes were on Russell Westbrook, who delivered 18 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists two days after being benched down the stretch in a surprising loss to Indiana
- LeBron James kept his scoring streak alive by supplying 29 points
- Their next two games are against Eastern Conference front-runners Miami and Brooklyn
LeBron James kept his scoring streak alive by supplying 29 points and Carmelo Anthony added 23 off the bench as the Lakers successfully started a six-game road trip after overcoming a sleepy first half.
Many eyes were on Russell Westbrook, who delivered 18 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists two days after being benched down the stretch in a surprising loss to Indiana.
“He let last game go and was focused on this game,” James said. “He’s the head of the snake when it comes to being our point guard … I thought he did a great job of getting into the paint.”
Westbrook did not speak to reporters after Wednesday’s game but on Friday acknowledged frustration that he wasn’t able to finish against Indiana.
“I was upset about it — more upset that we didn’t win the [Indiana] game. That’s the most important part,” he said. “I’ve been doing my job since day one and doing everything that’s been asked of me since I got here. And I’ll continue doing that …”
Westbrook was much better against Orlando. So were the Lakers, who climbed back to .500 with a 23-23 record.
Anthony, who turns 38 in a few months, did just about everything. He made four 3-pointers, was solid from mid-range and even scored off an offensive rebound in the fourth quarter.
“Any time you get a hot hand like that, he’s one of our snipers,” James said. “He’s one of our quick bucket-getters where they can get hot. It can come in a hurry.”
It did not look great in the first half when the Lakers trailed by eight as rookie Jalen Suggs ran circles around them. How sluggish were they? Suggs had eight assists in the first half while the Lakers had only six as a team.
Anthony provided a second-half spark with 19 points, Avery Bradley played inspired defense to help shut down Suggs, and there was, as always, James.
He had 11 second-half points and became the fourth Lakers player with at least 25 points in 16 consecutive games, joining Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and Elgin Baylor.
Westbrook also got a nod of approval from Lakers Coach Frank Vogel.
“Russ played a really good basketball game, came in really focused,” Vogel said. “He wanted to impose his will, play his part and he played a hell of a game.”
If people considered Indiana a bad team (before beating the Lakers), Orlando was worse.
The Magic came into Friday with the following NBA rankings: 29th in points, 28th in field-goal percentage, 27th in 3-point accuracy and 26th in assists.
Most importantly, Orlando had an 8-38 record, worst in the NBA. The Magic had won exactly one game since Dec. 23.
In other words, the Lakers really needed to win Friday.
Their next two games are against Eastern Conference front-runners Miami and Brooklyn.