The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off two much-needed days of rest as they get ready to take on the Charlotte Hornets at Crypto.com Arena on Thursday night in the final home game of 2023.
L.A.’s last game was on Christmas Day against the rival Boston Celtics, which was a 126-115 loss, showing that the Lakers have a lot of work to do if they want to contend for a title this year.
Despite the recent loss, Thursday is a prime bounce-back opportunity for the purple and gold against a 7-21 Hornets team. Charlotte is without three key players in LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward and Mark Williams, adding to the Lakers’ chances of winning. Rookie Brandon Miller was also questionable coming into this one although he is playing and starting.
While injuries have derailed L.A. this year, everyone is healthy and active outside of Gabe Vincent and Cam Reddish. It was announced on Wednesday that Vincent underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee with a re-evaluation in eight weeks. Reddish is dealing with a groin issue and was originally listed as questionable before being ruled out.
The Hornets have been in Los Angeles for a couple of days, taking on the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday. This was a close loss for Charlotte, losing 113-103, led by Miles Bridges, who scored 21 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Terry Rozier and P.J. Washington also put up 18 points each and Nick Richards finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Without their No. 1 option in Ball and a complementary scorer in Hayward, the Hornets still have some players who can get hot quickly. Specifically, Rozier is averaging 23 points in his last 10 games and a career-high 7.1 assists. Bridges is behind him averaging 19.8 points and 7.2 rebounds.
For the Lakers to put this game out of reach fast, the new starting lineup is going to have to shut those two guys down. Head coach Darvin Ham has acknowledged leaning into a defensive identity with this new starting five, meaning Jarred Vanderbilt has to be able the Lakers get stops.
While offense is still a concern with this lineup, this five simply has to shut down a Hornets team missing key players. The Lakers are at their best in transition, getting stops and out in the break will make things easy on this lineup.
Getting a win in this one is important as the purple and gold go back out on the road once again to close out the year. For a team that has hovered around .500 since the recent losing skid, a win against a shorthanded Charlotte team is a must. All things considered, if the Lakers have themselves a good first quarter and build a lead early, it’ll make for a wire-to-wire win.
Los Angeles Lakers (16-15) vs. Charlotte Hornets (7-21)
7:30 p.m. PT, Dec. 28, 2023
Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers starting lineup:
PG: LeBron James
SG: Taurean Prince
sF: Jarred Vanderbilt
PF: Rui Hachimura
C: Anthony Davis
Key Reserves: Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell, Max Christie, Jaxson Hayes
Projected Hornets starting lineup:
PG: Terry Rozier
SG: Bryce McGowens
SF: Brandon Miller
PF: Miles Bridges
C: Nick Richards
Key Reserves: P.J. Washington, Cody Martin, Ish Smith, Nick Smith Jr.
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