Watching the film of the last time his team faced the bottom-dwelling Orlando Magic made coach Luke Walton angry and frustrated. The Lakers lost by 22 points and at one point trailed by nearly 30 points.
“Probably wasn’t a good thing to watch before trying to go to sleep,” Walton said.
So he did something he doesn’t always do. He made the players go through it again, too.
For a time, it seemed like there would be a repeat of their first meeting. Ultimately, the Lakers escaped with a 108-107 win over the Orlando Magic despite not making a field goal for the final 2 minutes 18 seconds. Orlando recovered from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter, only two days after the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Lakers after being down 11 in the fourth.
“We don’t know how to win yet,” Isaiah Thomas said. “It’s obvious. We have a young group. We’re not executing the way we need to down the stretch. The other team, when you’re losing you got nothing to lose. So you’re applying pressure offensively and defensively that maybe you didn’t do all game. … I think if we execute, we’ll be a lot better.”
Center Brook Lopez led the Lakers with 27 points. He also had three assists but no rebounds. Kyle Kuzma scored 20 points for the Lakers, making nine of 16 shots as the Lakers small forward, which is not his usual position. Kuzma was one of two Lakers to notch double doubles. Julius Randle had 12 points and 11 rebounds despite playing only 1:18 in the fourth quarter. Walton said Randle wasn’t feeling well.
The Lakers played without Brandon Ingram, who is out with a groin strain, and Josh Hart, who is recovering from a broken left hand.
The Magic were led by Aaron Gordon, who scored 28 points with 14 rebounds. Nikola Vucevic scored 24 points with 12 rebounds.
The Magic took a 15-point lead in the first quarter, led by Aaron Gordon, who scored 12 points in that period. But the Lakers eventually recovered, but found themselves fighting for the game until its final seconds.
Even a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter wasn’t safe.
“It felt like we started playing as if we had won the game,” Walton said. “Teams in the NBA, they’re gonna go on a run and they get dangerous when they’re in survival mode.”
The Magic chipped into the Lakers’ lead with the help of an 8-2 run. Then with 1:24 left in the game, Gordon banked in a three-pointer, cutting the Lakers lead to four points.
Lonzo Ball, who scored 16 points with six rebounds and five assists, missed a three-pointer with 12.1 seconds left and Gordon barreled his way down the court for a layup that gave the Magic a one-point lead. Lopez took the lead back for the Lakers by making two free throws with 0.6 seconds left.
Then confusion set in. The Magic inbounded the ball, only to hear the buzzer sound before anyone inbounds touched it. The referees and the official scorer all have the ability to start the clock. After a review, there was a jump ball at center court with 0.6 seconds left, all but ensuring Orlando would not have time to get a shot off to attempt to win the game.
In the aftermath, it seemed as if nobody knew what happened in the final seconds.
“It was bizarre,” Lopez said. “I guess we had the game-winning jump ball. I had never seen that before.”
Said Thomas: “I still don’t even know how it ended.”
Referee Bill Spooner told a pool reporter that the rule states that when there is a clock malfunction, that automatically results in a jump ball.
“I would think you give the ball back to the team that had it, but they ruled that since the ball was in the air, it was a jump ball,” Orlando coach Frank Vogel said.
The rule was relayed to Thomas.
“That’s weird,” he said. “I mean, that sucks for the Magic. I’m glad we won.”
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli