Well, 2023 is off to a good start for the Lakers. As I said in my game preview against Charlotte…
“But it all comes down to getting up for this game for the Lakers. Be attentive. Be full of life. Have some energy.”
They sort of went away from it in the fourth quarter but the Lakers held on for a 121-115 win over Charlotte. They ended their road trip on a 3-2 slate and are now 16-21 overall.
After an ugly first quarter, the Lakers ran all over the Hornets. LeBron James got going in the second. It was kind of ridiculous how many one-footed jumpers he made in the game (he had, at least, four; I stopped counting after that). He went for 15 points in that second period. And then Austin Reaves emphatically snapped out of his mini-slump. He stole a lazy inbounds pass in the waning seconds of the half and made a jumper that beat the buzz(er). Buzz? Get it? Forget it.
Even the third quarter that was normally nightmarish didn’t faze the Lakers on Monday night. They built the lead to 24 points and we somehow got a dazzling alley-oop dunk from 38-year-old LeBron James.
However, Charlotte finally did get going in the fourth quarter. The Lakers’ 18-point lead to start the fourth quarter was cut by a third a few moments in (that would be 6 if your math isn’t great). The Hornets kept knocking on the door by slicing the deficit to single digits while the Lakers stopped doing what they were doing that made them great in the first three periods and that’s moving the ball around.
Behind Terry Rozier’s suddenly blistering shooting, the Hornets cut a 12-point deficit with two minutes left down to just four with 20 seconds to go (whoooaaaaaaa). Rozier made another improbable three that would’ve cut the lead to three but he stepped out of bounds before the shot. The Lakers would win the game a few moments later.
LeBron James continues to be impossible in what’s supposed to be his “Father Time.” 43 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists. I know it’s been said a billion times but LeBron is just a hell of a player. Thomas Bryant continues to play well with 18 points and 15 boards. He had a dunk that put them up 8 late and that surely helped the Lakers hold on. Austin Reaves and Dennis Schröder each had 15 points. It was nice to see Reaves bounce back. Russell Westbrook left the game after the first half due to a sore foot.
As for Charlotte, they looked like the team that lacked the energy until they realized they were in a basketball game by the fourth quarter. Terry Rozier scored 17 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter. LaMelo Ball went for 24-7-6. Mason Plumlee kept them in the game with his 18 points and 14 boards. But this is what the Lakers should’ve done to Charlotte in their Dec. 23 match-up. They have the talent, for sure, but the Hornets have had trouble putting the ball in the basket this year (29th in field goal percentage going into this game).
The Lakers are finally going back home. They have a quick two-game stay at Crypto; they face the Heat on Wednesday and get the Hawks on Friday. Maybe it is a new year and a new team for the Los Angeles Lakers.