Pre-Game Report: Lakers Match-up Against the Undermanned Hornets

The Lakers look to rebound with a win at home against the injury-riddled Hornets. After falling short against the Thunder, the Lakers should have an easier time against the Hornets who are missing three of their five starters. On Thursday night, the Hornets only managed to suit up eight players. Let’s hope that the Lakers play with focus despite matching up with a weaker opponent.

Frontcourt: With Kaman, Ayon and Ariza out due to injuries, Carl Landry, Jason Smith and Aminu manned the frontcourt on Thursday. This could be the case again tonight. Smith has been in the spotlight for his cheap shot against Blake Griffin. He’s best known for his physicality and he will try to make Bynum work for his shots. Landry has been playing well since returning from injury averaging x points and x rebounds. He will provide the majority of the offense in the Hornets frontcourt. Aminu is a young prospect who has yet to realize his potential. In other words, the Hornets sorely miss having Trevor Ariza at small forward.

Backcourt: Jack has been the most consistent player for the Hornets all season but he recently went down with an ankle injury. In his place, Greivis Vasquez filled in and played well. He is averaging 12 points and 6.5 assists as a starter is a solid backup point guard. The lone true starter left on the roster, Belinelli, had a big game on Thursday with seven three pointers. With a 38% three point shooting percentage, he’s living up to his reputation as a long ball specialist.

Keys to Lakers’ Victory:
Defensive Focus – In the Lakers loss to the Thunder their defensive struggles were on full display. During the entire third quarter they seemingly yielded a basket on every single Thunder possession. Russell Westbrook even knocked down a three pointer from near half-court with time expiring. If there is one thing that the Lakers had done well this season, it was defense. Mike Brown was hired because he is a defensive-minded coach and the Lakers reflected his mentality earlier in the season. Lately, the Lakers have lost their defensive identity and it’s time for them to find it again.

Close out Belinelli – Belinelli is the only true offensive weapon left on the undermanned Hornets. If Belinelli is allowed to get hot, he could single-handedly carry the Hornets with his three point shooting. The Lakers should not let him take a shot without a hand in his face.

Better Shot Selection – Two quick points here: Kobe needs to check his shooting and Bynum needs to learn to pass out of triple teams. For the month of March Kobe is shooting a dismal 40% from the field. This is largely due to him running isolation plays and forcing up a bad shot with the shot clock winding down. Clearly this type of play isn’t working and Kobe is smart enough to realize this, so let’s hope that he adjusts.

TV/Radio – Information

New Orleans Hornets (13-38) at Los Angeles Lakers (31-20)
12:30 PM PST, March 31, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Twittercast – Follow @LakersNation 

Hornets Projected Starting Line-up

PG: Greivis Vasquez
SG: Marco Belinelli
SF: Al-Farouq Aminu
PF: Carl Landry
C: Jason Smith

Key Injuries: SF Trevor Ariza, PG Jarrett Jack, C Chris Kaman, Gustavo Ayon

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