The Lakers and Magic may occupy opposite coasts of the United States, but these franchises will always be linked together. The main reason being that the Lakers have taken arguably the 2 best players in Magic franchise history away from them. Back in 1996, Los Angeles signed former No. 1 overall pick Shaquille O’Neal to a record-breaking free agent contract after the future Hall of Famer spent the first several seasons of his career in Orlando.
Then, back in 2012, the Lakers acquired Dwight Howard in a blockbuster 4-team trade from Orlando. Howard’s initial tenure in Los Angeles lasted just one tumultuous season, though, while the Magic are still reaping the benefits of the deal. The Magic’s best player, Nikola Vucevic, was one of the players they got as a return in the Howard trade.
Howard has bounced around the league since, but he wound up back in LA this summer in an attempt to rejuvenate his career. So far, so good on that front. Vucevic, meanwhile, re-signed with Orlando on a lucrative contract extension this offseason, but he’s currently sidelined due to an ankle injury. Vucevic hasn’t played since sustaining the injury on November 20, and he’ll miss tonight’s game, as well.
MyBookie initially had the Lakers listed as 5.5-point favorites to beat the Magic tonight in Orlando. However, a deluge of bets coming in on the Lakers has since pushed the line to LA -8.
2019 Straight Up
2019 ATS Home
2019 ATS Away
2019 O/U Home
2019 O/U Away
The Lakers have done an awful lot of winning this season. They’re tied with the Bucks for the best record in the NBA at 21-3, and they enter Monday’s contest in Central Florida as winners of 4 straight and 14 of their last 15 overall. Their lone defeat in that stretch was a 114-100 loss at home against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks back on December 1. That remains the team’s only loss since November 11.
The Lakers have impressively done much of this damage on the road. Last week, they put together an incredibly impressive road trip that took them through hostile outposts like Denver, Salt Lake City and Portland. Not only did the Lakers win all 3 of those games, but they won them by a combined 57 points. Say what you want about the current state of the Nuggets, Jazz and Trail Blazers, but those are never easy places for road teams to play.
The LeBron James-Anthony Davis pairing has proven to be rather unstoppable. In the team’s last game, an easy 142-125 win at home over Minnesota, James scored 32 points to go along with 13 assists in just 28 minutes of work. His minutes were down because he picked up 4 fouls in the first half, yet he was still able to put together a gaudy stat line.
It paled in comparison to Davis’ however. Davis racked up a season-high 50 points on blistering 20-29 shooting from the field and 10-10 shooting from the charity stripe. For good measure he chipped in another 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals and a block. Not only is Davis making a case to win Defensive Player of the Year, he’s making a case to win his first career MVP award.
If the Lakers keep winning, both players will have surely built legitimate MVP cases by the end of the campaign.
The Magic have rattled off 4 wins in their last 5 games despite the fact that they have been playing for weeks without Vucevic. Orlando toppled the Warriors, Wizards, Suns and Cavaliers before suffering a 110-101 defeat against Milwaukee on the road in their last game. While they lost by 9 points, it was still a solid showing for the Magic considering the Bucks have been blowing everybody out lately.
Evan Fournier has picked up some of the offensive slack with Vucevic on the sidelines. The sharpshooting Frenchman scored a team-high 26 points against the Bucks, and he is averaging a career-best 20 points per game on the season. Fournier shot just 34 percent from downtown a season ago, but he has upped his accuracy significantly so far in 2019-20 (44.8 percent).
Former No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz mysteriously flamed out in Philadelphia, but he has quietly made strides so far this year in his first full season with the Magic. Fultz is averaging a modest 12 points, 4.1 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game, but so far this month he’s up to 13.6 points, 6.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds in 29 minutes per game. Fultz still isn’t a major threat from 3-point range, but he does know how to use his athleticism to his advantage offensively.
The Magic made a surprising run to the playoffs last season thanks to a strong defense. While the Lakers currently rank fourth in the league in defensive efficiency, the Magic rank a respectable 10th. The Magic’s offense without Vucevic has left plenty to be desired, but Steve Clifford’s crew likes to slow the game down and grind it out on the defensive end of the floor.
Orlando has rallied to an 11-12 record on the year in spite of injuries combined with a slow start. The Magic began the year just 6-10, but they have continued to have a hard time getting results against good teams. Orlando is 1-9 on the year against teams with records of .500 or better. Obviously, tonight’s opponent fits the bill on that front.
I would have loved to get in on Lakers -5.5 when that was still available, but I still think betting on LA to cover an 8-point spread is perfectly viable here. While I’m a little nervous about the Magic’s willingness to muck up the game and turn it into a slugfest, I think this Lakers team is really built to win a number of different ways. They can beat you in a track meet, but they also have the horses to get the job done offensively in a halfcourt setting.
Bet on the Lakers to cover once again tonight. Why go away from a good thing?
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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