The Los Angeles Lakers must quickly brush off a frustrating outing against the New York Knicks, as the seven-game road trip comes to a conclusion against the Charlotte Hornets, currently the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Los Angeles has already stung the Hornets in their first matchup earlier this season, 116-105, but that game saw both teams at almost full health, while this matchup will materialize in severely different circumstances.
L.A. is still without LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Jared Dudley. Andre Drummond (elbow) and Marc Gasol (hamstring) were listed as questionable, while Kyle Kuzma (calf), Wesley Matthews (Achilles) and Dennis Schroder (pelvis contusion) are probable.
Frank Vogel gave an update on the status of his players pregame, and everyone listed above is good to go outside of Morris, who was ruled out after being a game-time decision.
For Charlotte, star rookie LaMelo Ball (wrist), Malik Monk (ankle), Gordon Hayward (foot), P.J. Washington (ankle) and Terry Rozier (knee) are all out.
Offensively, the Lakers must control the ball better than they have been, as the inability to successfully shift the ball from one pair of hands to another significantly minimized their success against New York.
In April, the Hornets are forcing their opponents to turn it over 15.3 times a game, good for ninth in the league during that span. Though their injury report could force them out of pivotal players, their depth has stepped up to continue to produce at solid levels to remain afloat out East.
Schroder has shouldered the fault for the turnover problems, and this game could be a good one to manifest a better turnover rate with the depleted Hornets’ backcourt.
The Lakers also need their shooting to ameliorate in this contest because Charlotte has had a rough go at slowing teams down from 3-point range. This month, they are allowing opponents to shoot 39.2% from downtown, ranking 24th. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Ben McLemore, Morris and Matthews all have big roles to play in this department, as their off-ball shooting could help sting Charlotte.
Offensive rebounding is also a deep area of concern for the Hornets. This month, they authorize the opposition to grab 11.2 offensive rebounds a contest, tied with four teams at 25th in the league — one of those is Los Angeles. The Lakers could manipulate Charlotte’s struggles with Drummond and Montrezl Harrell constantly fighting for positioning and extra possessions down low.
Defensively, the Lakers have the advantage on paper. The Hornets are only scoring 105 points a game over their last six, placing 28th in the league, and those problems exacerbate with the exclusion of Washington and possibly Rozier.
The Hornets may count on Devonte’ Graham to explode on the scoring charts, as they hope he can find the spark that ignited his hot run last season. His shine has deteriorated with the rise of Ball on the roster, but this could be a prime opportunity for Graham to help his team win, though the Lakers flaunt a wide array of guards who can delay Graham’s damage.
Charlotte hasn’t converted on many of their 3-point attempts either. Their percentage in the last six games is just 33.8%, placing 25th in the league. L.A. easily neutralizes that with their perimeter defense, which is only allowing opponents to hit on 28% of their 3-pointers, the best rate in the league in April.
Injuries could swing this game either way, but with most of Charlotte’s primary scorers out, they could have an arduous few hours trying to muster points against one of the league’s most menacing defenses in Los Angeles. Still, the Lakers must remain focused for all 48 minutes just like they did against the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night to extract a win.
Lakers (33-21) vs. Hornets (27-25)
5:00 p.m. PT, April 13, 2021
Spectrum Center, Charlotte, North Carolina
TV: Spectrum Sportsnet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers starting lineup:
PG: Dennis Schroder
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Talen Horton-Tucker
PF: Kyle Kuzma
C: Andre Drummond
Key Reserves: Montrezl Harrell, Wesley Matthews, Alex Caruso, Ben McLemore
Projected Hornets starting lineup:
PG: Devonte’ Graham
SG: Caleb Martin
SF: Miles Bridges
PF: Jalen McDaniels
C: Bismack Biyombo
Key Reserves: Brad Wanamaker, Cody Martin, Cody Zeller
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