Toronto, Canada – LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Los Angeles Lakers picked up where they left off in the NBA Finals last June by finishing strongly to beat the Orlando Magic 98-92 Monday.
In a theme familiar from the Lakers' 4-1 championship series triumph last year, the Magic looked to be going well before a Los Angeles late surge stole the show.
Orlando shook off an early deficit and led 67-58 with 3:15 left in the third but then failed to make a field goal for more than nine minutes.
"It was the defensive effort we brought," said Gasol, who was playing his second successive game after missing six in a row with a hamstring injury.
"We didn't start the third with any intensity and they took advantage of it. We started hustling and working and played (Dwight Howard) more physically."
Howard scored 18 of his 24 points in the first half but was subdued after the break as the Magic (26-15) slid to their seventh defeat in nine game.
Orlando have looked nothing like the Eastern Conference champions of a year ago, in terms of both effort and personnel. Offseason acquisition Vince Carter has struggled with his shooting and that trend continued Monday as he managed just nine points on 3-for-11 shooting.
Kobe Bryant, playing with a broken finger on his shooting hand and a sore back, scored 11 on 4-for-19 shooting.
"I think he's OK physically but he didn't practice, and sometimes when you don't practice your rhythm is off a little bit," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)