Lakers Vs. Hornets Preview: Russell Westbrook & Austin Reaves Return For Final Home Game Of 2022
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Lakers face the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night for the final home game of 2022. The Lakers are in the midst of a two-game losing streak while the Hornets have one win in their last 10 games.

Charlotte faced the Clippers on Wednesday, losing by 21 points in a game where they were down by as many as 31. Los Angeles lost by 14 against the Kings on the same day.

The major long-term injury news revolves around Anthony Davis. The Lakers announced on Friday he will be out indefinitely with a stress issue in his right foot. Davis was originally ruled out for at least a month, but it has now been reported that the big man will rest for 7-10 days and be reevaluated after that period.

The good news for the Lakers is Russell Westbrook and Austin Reaves are returning after each missed two straight games. Westbrook recorded a triple-double in the Lakers’ first meeting against the Hornets last season — an overtime victory.

LeBron James is also playing after being listed as probable with left ankle soreness. Juan Toscano-Anderson is still out with a right ankle sprain while everyone else is available for the Lakers.

For the Hornets, Dennis Smith Jr. is out with an ankle injury while Cody Martin is out after a left knee procedure. The rest of the team is available, including LaMelo Ball who recently returned for Charlotte.

Ball missed the first 13 games of the season with an ankle injury. He then tweaked the same ankle in his third game back, prompting him to miss almost one month. Ball is back though and has scored over 20 points in five straight games since his return.

He notched a triple-double against the Clippers on Wednesday — his first of the season — and should be the main focus for a Lakers defense that did well against De’Aaron Fox two days ago. Sacramento resorted to Domantas Sabonis with Fox struggling. Charlotte doesn’t have a big man of that quality, so containing Ball is the key to victory.

The Hornets, however, do have explosive offensive players alongside Ball. Kelly Oubre Jr. is having his best season in the NBA, averaging a career-high 20 points per game. With Gordon Hayward back and the Lakers’ lack of wing depth, it could pose a difficult challenge on defense.

Charlotte though has the worst offensive rating in the league. The Hornets’ 32.3% shooting from the 3-point line and 44.3% from the field are second worst in the NBA. Simply put, offense is a problem for Charlotte and the Lakers’ average defense is capable of making life difficult.

The Lakers though have their own concerns. Without Davis, both sides of the ball have predictably taken a hit.

For the first time this season, the Lakers have allowed consecutive teams to score over 130 points. Sacramento also scored 40 points in the second and third quarters. Finding some momentum on that side of the ball is crucial, especially since it was a bright spot in the Lakers’ poor start early on.

Los Angeles Lakers (13-18) vs. Charlotte Hornets (8-24)
7:30 p.m. PT, December 23, 2022 Arena
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA

Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:

PG: Dennis Schroder
SG: Patrick Beverley
SF: Lonnie Walker IV
PF: LeBron James
C: Thomas Bryant

Key Reserves: Russell Westbrook, Austin Reaves, Troy Brown Jr., Wenyen Gabriel, Damian Jones, Max Christie

Projected Hornets Starting Lineup:

PG: LaMelo Ball
SG: Terry Rozier
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: P.J. Washington
C: Mason Plumlee

Key Reserves: Kelly Oubre Jr., Jaden McDaniels, Theo Maledon, JT Thor, Nick Richards

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