Lakers vs. Hornets Pre-Game Report: Showdown in the Big Easy

Los Angeles Lakers (26-16) at New Orleans Hornets (10-32)
5:00 PM PST, March 14, 2012
New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, Louisiana
Radio: 710 AM (English), 1330 AM (Spanish)

Hornets Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Jarrett Jack
SG: Marco Belinelli
SF: Trevor Ariza
PF: Gustavo Ayon
C: Chris Kaman

Key Reserves: F Al-Farouq Aminu, G Greivis Vasquez, F Lance Thomas

Despite two losses to two of the poorer teams in the league, the Lakers have had quite the decent month and look to make it even better when they visit another one of the league’s bottom-half teams, the New Orleans Hornets. Sure the Lakers are 8-14 on the road, but they surely are improving as was proven last night in Memphis in a double-overtime thriller, a 116-111 victory for the Lakers. The team is 5-2 for the month and have their sights set on the team calling The Big Easy their home, the Hornets. New Orleans stands dead-last in the Western Conference and third-worst in the NBA. A victory over the Hornets could come a long way in replenishing whatever momentum the team might still be lacking from prior defeats to the Wizards and Pistons last week.

Frontcourt: It is amazing how time flies, as just three seasons ago Trevor Ariza donned a Lakers jersey. It was here that Trevor won his sole championship. Now he plays for a lowly Hornets team stuck in rebuilding mode. Trevor has shown some flashes of life recently, scoring 20 points last Wednesday against the Kings, but still has been kept in check. Ariza has scored 10.4 points in New Orleans’s victories, while pouring in 12.2 during their defeats. Ariza’s shooting percentage this season is the highest it has been since his days as a Laker, when he shot 46 percent (this year he is shooting just over 42 percent). Ariza is teamed with Gustavo Ayon, a rookie from Mexico that has proved to be quite useful for the Hornets. Ayon averages 6.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He is quite experienced with competitive basketball having played for the Mexican National Team and spending time with the Spanish professional team Baloncesto Fuenlabrada. While Ayon continues to improve, he can rely on Chris Kaman to show him the way. The former Clipper has slowly begun to re-discover the touch he had that led to his scoring average of 18.5 points two seasons ago. In his last 10 games, he is averaging a double-double, consisting of 15.5 points and 10.2 rebounds.

Backcourt: Journeyman Jarrett Jack is playing for his fourth team in five years, but is making himself quite comfortable in New Orleans. Jack is in his seventh season and is averaging 14.9 points per game with 3.7 rebounds, and 6.0 assists, all career highs. A good defense will slow Jack though as evidenced in a March 5th defeat against the Trail Blazers where he scored just three points on one-of-six shooting. Still he fought through it and came back two nights later against the Kings and poured in 25 points on 11-of-17 shooting. He is a very consistent player who can score and will shoot first, but knows when to dish the rock. Many of those passes are to fellow guard Marco Belinelli who continues to slightly improve with each coming season. Marco is particularly known for his shot, especially from three-point territory, where he has struggled this season, shooting a career-low 35 percent. Last season he shot 41 percent, a career-best.

Fun Facts:

  • The Lakers lead the overall series against the Hornets by a margin of 41-17. The Lakers have won four straight regular-season games.
  • The Lakers out-shot the Memphis Grizzlies by 29 free throws, converting 28 of 34 while Memphis was perfect on all five attempts. Do note that two of the Grizzlies free throws were due to technical fouls by the Lakers.
  • The Hornets were victims of a 73-71 defeat to the Charlotte Bobcats, the first time score so low and win on the road since 2008. The Hornets average 88.2 points per game, 29th in the league.

Keys to a Laker Victory:

Trap Jack, Force Belinelli to Get Hot
Jarrett Jack loves to shoot, as does Marco Belinelli. The Lakers should dare the latter to get hot. He has struggled throughout the season, and should remain in a drought against a top defense like the Lakers.

Expose Ayon’s Inexperience
Gustavo Ayon is a big man with several different basketball experiences, but I guarantee that none will compare to opposing twin seven-footers such as Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

Light them Up
The Hornets are miles away from the team that gave the Lakers fits in the playoffs last season. The team scored just 71 points against a struggling Bobcats team that just defeated them by two points. This one should be a gimme for the Lakers.

Best-Case Prediction: Lakers 101, Hornets 84
Worst-Case: Hornets 93, Lakers 92

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