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NBA Preview from The Sports Network



Monday, March 14th (All times eastern)

Orlando Magic (42-25) at Los Angeles Lakers (47-20), 10:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The surging Los Angeles Lakers open a lengthy seven-game homestand Monday against Dwight Howard and the always tough Orlando Magic.

The two-time defending champion Lakers have taken off since the All-Star break, winning nine of 10 games and finishing a very tough road trip at 3-1 after a 96-91 win over fellow Western Conference power Dallas on Saturday.

Kobe Bryant scored 16 points despite rolling his ankle in a scary moment during the third quarter of that one. Andrew Bynum had 22 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Lakers, who bounced back after having an eight-game winning streak snapped in Miami on Thursday.

Bryant turned his left ankle late in the third quarter, losing the ball as he was double-teamed on the left side by Dallas' Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd.

It looked serious in replays and Bryant limped off the court, but he returned with 6:30 remaining in the fourth quarter to help LA hang on. Bryant said he thought he dislocated the ankle.

"All jokes aside, I thought I was done," he said. "I was just praying that when I stood up, that my was foot lined straight. All jokes aside, that really scared me. I wasn't really sure how it was going to respond. Jogging around [inside the building] then going back out to the floor and playing was a little different. It felt OK."

Pau Gasol added 18 points in the win and Ron Artest scored 12.

"It was a big game," said Bryant. "One of the things I reminded the team before we went out is that this is a team that could beat us in the postseason. And for whatever reason, whenever we play Dallas, it doesn't have that same energy that we have when we play against Oklahoma City or we play San Antonio.

"It's important to understand that this team is a serious contender, and that we approach this game like that."

Bryant, who is averaging nearly 30.0 points per game over his last 11 meetings with Orlando, including the 2009 NBA Finals which Los Angeles won in five games, is listed as questionable for tonight's contest.

The Lakers, who are 22-8 at Staples Center this season, will also host the Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, Suns, Clippers, Hornets and then the Mavericks again on their residency.

Orlando, meanwhile, improved to 2-1 on a five-game road trip in Phoenix on Sunday when Howard posted 26 points and 15 rebounds in the Magic's dominating 111-88 win over the Suns, who were without star guard Steve Nash.

Nash did not play because of pelvic instability, which has hampered him for the last few games.

Brandon Bass had 17 points and six rebounds while Jameer Nelson posted 14 points for the Magic, who bounced back from a 123-120 overtime loss to Golden State on Friday. Hedo Turkoglu had 13 points and seven boards in the win and Gilbert Arenas chipped in 16 points off the bench.

"We just usually come out slow and sluggish and tonight we wanted to come out with a lot more energy and intensity and I just think that's what you saw," Bass said.

Orlando, which will finish its trek in Milwaukee on Wednesday, has lost 11 of its last 13 in LA versus the Lakers.

03/14 11:00:13 ET


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