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Lakers erase 21-point second-half deficit then fall to Magic

Tania Ganguli, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Basketball

LOS ANGELES -- Each time the Los Angeles Lakers put themselves within striking distance in the final minutes, the Orlando Magic had an answer.

When Quinn Cook made a three-pointer to cut the Lakers' deficit to one with about a minute remaining, Orlando center Nikola Vucevic coolly hit a three to answer. When a JaVale McGee dunk trimmed the Lakers deficit to two points, Markelle Fultz countered at the opposite rim with a driving layup.

For the last week, the Lakers had been beating up on overmatched opponents who couldn't overcome a team missing one of its two stars. On Wednesday their run finally ended. The Magic won 119-118, handing the Lakers just their eighth loss of the season and first loss to a team with a losing record. With the win, the Magic improved to 20-21.

LeBron James finished with 19 points and 19 assists, tying a career high in assists. His final assist came at the final buzzer on an assist to Cook, whose season-high 22 points made him the game's leading scorer. The Lakers also got 14 points from McGee, 17 from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Troy Daniels, and 11 from Danny Green.

While Lakers coach Frank Vogel was hopeful to get Anthony Davis some live practice time on Friday, he missed his fourth consecutive game due to a bruised gluteus maximus. The Lakers were also without Rajon Rondo, whose right ring finger was taped after having sustained an avulsion fracture on Saturday in Oklahoma City.

The Lakers used a steady diet of McGee in the first quarter, and the center had eight points in less than four minutes. James only took one shot and didn't score in the nine minutes he played in the first quarter.

As the Lakers worked to minimize their deficit heading into halftime, they made two momentum-shifting plays. First, Terrence Ross wound up and elevated for what he hoped would be a thundering dunk on top of McGee. Instead, McGee blocked Ross' shot. Moments later, Daniels made a three-pointer and drew a foul. He made the ensuing free throw for a four-point play, and the Lakers went into halftime down just 65-58.

 

Orlando made a push to extend their lead, even building it to 21 points, 87-66, in the third quarter. But the Lakers closed the quarter on a 22-2 run to cut their deficit to one point, 89-88.

Cook, the Lakers' reserve point guard who was thrust into a bigger role because of Rondo's injury and an in-game injury to Alex Caruso, led the way. He scored the Lakers' final seven points in the period, finishing with 13 through three quarters.

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