Final

Regular Season Series (Game 1 of 2)

Series starts 1/18

Game 1: Monday, January 18th
Magic92Final
Lakers98
Game 2: Sunday, March 7th
Lakers94Final
Magic96

Magic 92

(26-15, 12-11 away)

Lakers 98

(32-9, 23-3 home)

    Coverage: TNT

    10:30 PM ET, January 18, 2010

    STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA

    1 2 3 4 T
    ORL 25 22 21 2492
    LAL 33 19 12 3498

    Top Performers

    Orlando: D. Howard 24 Pts, 12 Reb, 2 Ast, 3 Blk

    Los Angeles: P. Gasol 17 Pts, 10 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl

    Magic-Lakers Preview

    STATS LLC

    Although the Los Angeles Lakers aren't totally healthy, they look poised to defend their NBA title.

    The reigning Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic, meanwhile, aren't playing like they're capable of creating a finals rematch.

    In their first meeting since last season's playoffs, the Lakers try to continue their home dominance Monday night when they face a Magic team trying to avoid its seventh loss in nine games.

    Los Angeles (31-9) won its 15th championship by beating the Magic in five games in last June's NBA finals. It was the fourth title for Kobe Bryant, who averaged 32.4 points and 6.2 assists to earn finals MVP.

    Bryant has been playing with a broken right index finger for more than a month and a sore back for the past week, but has still managed to lead the Lakers to the best record in the NBA approaching the season's midpoint.

    The 11-time All-Star had 30 points in Friday's easy 126-86 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, and is now 30 shy of becoming the 15th player to reach 25,000 in his career. If he hits the mark anytime in the next month, he'll be the youngest player to reach the milestone.

    The Lakers had no trouble putting away the Clippers, erupting for a season-best 73-point second half in a game they led by as many as 45 points.

    Pau Gasol returned from a six-game absence because of a hamstring injury and showed a little rust. The two-time All-Star, who missed the season's first 11 games with another hamstring injury, finished with 20 points and six rebounds in 30 minutes, but shot just 4 of 10 from the field.

    "When we play together and we move the ball and we play defense the way we did, especially in that second half, we're a tough team to beat," said Gasol, who averaged 18.6 points on 60.0 percent shooting and 9.2 boards in last season's finals. "Things are working out."

    Not much has been working out lately for Orlando.

    The Magic (26-14) fell one-half game behind Atlanta for the Southeast Division lead following Friday's 102-87 loss to Portland, their sixth defeat in eight games.

    "It's not pretty right now," three-time All-Star Dwight Howard said. "But I'm not going to give up on this team, and we're not going to give up on each other."

    Howard hasn't been his normal imposing self recently.

    The 6-foot-11 center made just 4 of 7 attempts from the field and finished with 11 points Friday, the seventh time in 11 games he has been held to 12 or fewer. He had seven such games in Orlando's first 29 contests.

    "One thing we can't do is point the finger at each other," said Howard, who averaged 15.4 points and 15.2 rebounds in last year's finals. "We've got to play through these situations."

    Leading scorer Vince Carter (17.1 ppg) is also struggling, averaging 6.8 points on 19.6 percent shooting in his last five games. He returned to the court Friday after missing three games with a sprained left shoulder, but again wasn't a factor. Carter had five points and shot 1 of 7 against the Trail Blazers.

    The Magic have lost eight of 10 away from Orlando entering the finale of their current four-game trip. Ending those road woes at Staples Center won't be easy.

    The Lakers have won 17 of their last 18 home games overall, improving to a league-best 22-3 at home. They defeated the Magic in both meetings at Staples in the finals.

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