The Los Angeles Lakers have the opportunity to end their road trip with a winning record while also correcting one of their worst losses of the season when they head to Charlotte to take on the Hornets.
Just over a week ago, the Lakers dropped a home game to the Hornets 134-130 in one of the more disappointing performances of the year. It was also one that followed a familiar formula with the Lakers putting forth an awful effort in the third quarter and a late comeback in the fourth coming up just short.
The team does have a bit more momentum coming into this contest following LeBron James’ unbelievable 47-point, 10-rebound and 9-assist performance on his 38th birthday Friday night against the Atlanta Hawks. But it was a team effort that got the Lakers the victory on that night with five other players scoring in double-figures and the team totaling 34 assists as ball and player movement was at a premium.
Patrick Beverley has finally found his shooting stroke this season and Dennis Schroder is becoming more comfortable in his role and finding his spots to attack. Juan Toscano-Anderson has also provided a big boost to the team since his return from injury, giving the Lakers a bigger wing they have sorely needed, and hitting some timely shots as well.
Russell Westbrook and Thomas Bryant have continued to be reliable, but the Lakers must figure out how to get Austin Reaves out of his recent slump. The second-year guard is shooting just 4-of-25 from the field and 3-of-19 from deep in the last three games with more turnovers than assists. The Lakers need his playmaking and shooting and whether it is fatigue or a loss of confidence, they must figure out how to get him back on track.
Reaves should be in the starting lineup again considering Lonnie Walker IV was ruled out for the second straight game with a tailbone contusion.
In the first meeting between these two teams, the Hornets actually bested the Lakers in areas L.A. is normally great in. Charlotte outscored the Lakers 62-to-50 in the paint and 29-to-10 in transition. This is what allowed a Hornets team that ranks dead last in offensive rating to rack up 134 points.
Cutting down on the turnovers and making a concerted effort to get back on defense even after makes would go a long way to ensuring they come away with a win as the Lakers’ offense has been just fine as of late.
LaMelo Ball, as always, is the engine that gets everything going for the Hornets so the Lakers would be wise to focus their defensive attack on limiting him especially as a passer, because that shuts down many of the other Hornets. The matchup between Bryant and Mason Plumlee should also be crucial.
Plumlee’s work on the glass and his ability as a shot blocker are well known, but Bryant has done a great job since being inserted in the starting lineup. Winning that battle may be the difference between a win and a loss on this night.
Los Angeles Lakers (15-21) vs. Charlotte Hornets (10-27)
4:00 p.m. PT, January 2, 2022
Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Dennis Schroder
SG: Patrick Beverley
SF: Austin Reaves
PF: LeBron James
C: Thomas Bryant
Key Reserves: Russell Westbrook, Troy Brown Jr., Wenyen Gabriel, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Kendrick Nunn
Projected Hornets Starting Lineup:
PG: LaMelo Ball
SG: Terry Rozier
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: P.J. Washington
C: Mason Plumlee
Key Reserves: Dennis Smith Jr., Jalen McDaniels, Theo Maledon, JT Thor, Nick Richards
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