The Lakers hope to avoid losing their third game in a row when they face the Hornets on the road. After getting blown out by the Suns on Saturday, it’s clear that the Lakers missed Kobe’s presence on the court. They allowed 125 points, which is the most points an opponent has scored on them all season. It’s currently unknown if Kobe will return for tonight’s game, but you can bet that he’s chomping at the bit to get back out there. The Hornets are looking rejuvenated with key players returning from injury. Ariza, Kaman, and Gordon have returned and Jarrett Jack is day-to-day. These Hornets are much improved from the team the Lakers squeaked by ten days ago.
Frontcourt: Since returning from injury, Kaman has had two double-doubles and two sub-par games. He’s made his presence felt on defense, swatting 12 shots in four games. With Kaman back, Smith has slid over to the four spot and he had a big game on Saturday with 26 points and 10 boards. He’s a physical player who is not afraid of contact. Ariza has struggled since returning to the starting lineup, reaching double digits just once in three games. At heart, he’s a defensive player and he always relishes the challenge of guarding Kobe. Landry and Aminu provide productive minutes off the bench: Landry is a double digit scoring threat and Aminu is an athletic youngster who contributes in all facets of the game. In the last game against the Lakers, Aminu tallied 10 points, four steals and seven boards.
Backcourt: Jack is listed as day-to-day, but should he return, he will be a handful for the Lakers to guard. Jack recorded 18 points and 10 assists against the Lakers on March 31st and he nearly missed a game winning shot. In his place, Vasquez has played exceptionally well. Vasquez is a playmaker who loves to get his teammates involved. At the two, Eric Gordon has returned to the starting lineup. He’s a scoring machine who loves to get inside the paint and tear apart defenses. The deep ball threat, Marco Belinelli has been relatively cold from beyond the arc since being moved to the bench.
Key to Lakers’ Victory:
Recommitment to Defense – Simply put, the Lakers need to get their game together on defense. Quick guards like Westbrook, Dragic and Shannon Brown have torched the Lakers recently. One of the reasons for this is because the Lakers big men are not hedging well. Mike Brown prefers his guards go under screens and the big man come up to hedge. This defensive scheme works fine provided that the big men hedge well, but this has actually been a huge weakness for the Lakers and it’s something they need to fix quickly.
Ever since the Lakers have shifted focus to their offense, the defense has lacked energy and commitment. The Lakers are not displaying the same level of defensive intensity and focus they had the in the first half of the season and the results not been pretty. On Saturday the Lakers hit rock bottom when they gave up 125 points to a Suns team who is barely above .500. The Lakers must address this problem immediately and once again hang their hats on their defense.
Los Angeles Lakers (35-22) at New Orleans Hornets (15-41)
5:00 PM PST, April 9, 2012
New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, LA
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Hornets Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Greivis Vasquez
SG: Eric Gordon
SF: Trevor Ariza
PF: Jason Smith
C: Chris Kaman
Key Reserves: SG Marco Belinelli, F Carl Landry, SF Al-Farouq Aminu