They trailed by five at halftime as the Lakers' offense was shooting just 35.4 percent from the field and making the Magic defense look every bit as dominant as L.A.'s D has been in the last 10 games.
The first two quarters were so sloppy that the guy who likened his toughness to Bruce Willis' last year, Kobe Bryant, was just 2-for-10 at the half and had to give himself a pep talk in the locker room to stop playing like a "wuss."
And then they took the floor for the third quarter and looked like a completely different team, much the same way the Lakers came back after the All-Star break and seemed to have found a different gear.
"We had a good second half," said Lakers head coach Phil Jackson. "We got our offense running a little bit. Defensively, we got some steals and some easy baskets."
The Lakers outscored the Magic by 18 after halftime -- 56 to 38. They shot 53.7 percent from the field after hitting at just a 35.4 percent clip in the first half and they simply looked like a team determined to win while the Magic started to run out of gas after playing the second night of a back-to-back on the road.
The Lakers recent run of success, winning 10 of their last 11 games, has happened on the defensive end. In six of those wins, they've held the opponent to less than 40 percent shooting from the field and in seven of those wins they've held the opponent to under 90 points for the game.
He tied his career-high with 18 rebounds, nine of them coming on the offensive glass, and had four blocks and 10 points in 28 productive minutes against the two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Dwight Howard.
Bynum had 11 of those rebounds by the end of the first quarter, causing the folks who run the stats display on the scoreboard that hangs above center court to include rebound totals for every player (when it usually only lists uniform number, points and fouls) so that the Staples Center crowd could count along as Bynum crashed the boards.
"It's really just going hard," Bynum said. "You know, trying to get every rebound. That's all I'm focusing on, seriously."
It was the ninth time since the All-Star break that he topped 10 rebounds and the sixth time that he reached the 15-rebound plateau.
"His teammates encourage him to get all the rebounds," Jackson said. "He sees that Pau is in the top five or six in rebounding. He's going to replace him."
The praise for Bynum from his teammates was so universal and abundant, it reads almost like a movie commercial citing positive review by guys like Peter Travers from Rolling Stone.
"He's consistently performing this way, so we expect it from him. This is how he should play and this is how he's going to play," said Bryant ... "He's doing some unbelievable things out there for us. And I keep saying it, in terms of since the All-Star break, people are trying to ask why we've been so much better and I'll start with him," said Derek Fisher ... "He's giving us a force inside. That's hard to come by and he's doing it without even scoring sometimes, which not too many players in this league can do," said Lamar Odom.
Along with the Lakers' rebounding edge (particularly on the offensive glass where L.A. lead 14-6), Orlando head coach Stan Van Gundy pointed to the other problem area for his team: turnovers.
"The difference is they got 21 more shots than we did," Van Gundy said. "It's pretty easy; all you have to do is look at the stat sheet. They have eight more offensive rebounds than we did and they had 13 fewer turnovers; there are 21 more shots. That's the ball game."
By now you know that Kobe played on that sprained left ankle of his. Click here to read what he had to say about how it affected his play. He only shot 7-for-19 for the game, but went 5-for-9 after halftime making his shooting total just 8-for-30 in his first three halves of basketball following his late-night Miami shootaround. In related news, Magic Johnson did not tweet anything derogatory about Kobe's shooting Monday like he did Saturday before erasing the tweet from his time line.
The Lakers' hot streak has pushed their record to 48-20, good enough for the second most wins in the league behind San Antonio (54-13) and the fifth best overall winning percentage in the league behind the Spurs, Boston (47-18), Chicago (47-18) and Dallas (47-19).
Bynum claimed that the team goal is to finish up the month of March by winning all six of their remaining home games. He also said the team wants to eclipse its 57-win total from last season, meaning it will have to go at least 10-4 in the last 14 games. Jackson has stressed the importance of nabbing the No. 2 seed in the West by finishing with a better record than Dallas and wouldn't mind vaulting ahead of the field in the East so that L.A. would have home court advantage should it make it back to the Finals.
Bryant isn't thinking in terms of long-term goals like that.
"We’re just playing," Bryant said. "Just playing and doing what we need to do. We just want to go into the playoffs, play good basketball, execute, try to minimize mistakes. Home court advantage to me is overrated.”
Excuse me, Kobe?
“We didn’t have home court advantage last year during the Finals," Bryant said before explaining his technically incorrect statement. "We split the first two games, then you don’t have home court advantage. We gave it up. It’s a five-game series and they have home court. When it’s a five-game series and you go up to Boston and you don’t have home court advantage, you got to take that s--- back. We did that. So I’m not worried about it. That’s for y’all, man.”
Speaking of home games, besides the final six games of March being at Staples, 10 of the final 14 are at home too.
"I’m worried about the fact that everybody says we have the rest of March on our home floor, like it’s going to be easier," said Jackson. "It’s not going to be easier, it’s going to be just as hard. We have to play just as hard."
L.A. will be playing hard against all Western Conference foes. Their game against Orlando was the last time they'll play a team from the East this year unless they make it back to the Finals.
As for the race in the East?
"We’re paying attention to it," Jackson said. "But there’s not a whole lot we can do about it anymore. We just can watch it."
Matt Barnes missed the Lakers first game against Orlando last month as he was still rehabbing from right knee surgery, but he made up for it Monday against his former team by chipping in five points, two rebounds, two steals and a block in the fourth quarter as L.A. turned a five-point lead into a rout.
It was just his fifth game back after missing 26 games following the surgery, but he made his impact felt in the 17 minutes he played.
"I wish I was 100 percent against them ... but it's always good to beat your old team," Barnes said.
Jackson said that Barnes applied his knowledge of his former squad to the benefit of his new one.
"He kind of knew what was going on in their offense and that helped us out a little bit," Jackson said.
Still, the eight-year veteran feels a little behind the eight ball.
"I can still do everything, it's just not as high and as fast as I'm used to," Barnes said. "I'm not really jumping over people for rebounds yet and I can't really stay in front of everybody like I usually do. It will just come with time."
March Madness has settled upon the Lakers. Barnes' UCLA Bruins are playing Shannon Brown's Michigan State Spartans in the first round and the two have a bet going. Luke Walton will be pulling for his Arizona Wildcats against Memphis and Devin Ebanks will root for West Virginia against the winner of UAB/Clemson. Ron Artest predicted that his St. John's Red Storm make the Final Four. And Fisher was somewhat perturbed that his Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans were in the play-in game Tuesday, rather than making the tournament outright. "We're not quite in, I guess, all the way, which I don't really understand what 64-68 really means," Fisher said. "But I'm excited for them, I'm happy for the program and I will definitely be watching."
As for me, I have my Syracuse Orange beating Mitch Kupchak's UNC Tarheels in the Sweet 16 and losing to Ohio State in the Elite Eight.
Quote of the night: "He's very tough, but I like to battle and I'm looking forward to the next one." -- Howard on facing Bynum.
Stats of the night: Fisher scored 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting a game after scoring zero on 0-for-6 against Dallas. Earlier in the season he followed up a two points on 1-for-8 game in a loss to the Clippers with 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting in a win against Oklahoma City the next game ... On the same night Miami got San Antonio back for losing by 30 by beating them by 30 the next time, the Lakers beat Orlando by 13 when they lost to the Magic by 14 the last time.