The Lakers’ last two games have been quite forgettable. All the stars sat down and, as a result, they were squashed by Phoenix. Two nights later, they were ran over by the Sacramento Kings, even with LeBron James back in the mix.
They now have a chance to get back on their winning ways as the Lakers (who previously received the news that Anthony Davis will be out indefinitely with a stress injury on his right foot) take on the Charlotte Hornets, who are sporting a poor 8-24 record, the second worst in the NBA.
What’s up with the Charlotte Hornets? They made the play-in game the last two seasons but now they’re looking pretty rough.
Injuries have really affected this Hornets team. LaMelo Ball has only played 8 games this season due to an ankle injury. Terry Rozier has already missed 10 games because of various injuries. Gordon Hayward has only played 15 games because of a shoulder injury. Dennis Smith Jr. was doing great on a comeback trail until his own ankle injury shelved him since last month. Cody Martin has only played a single game; he’s out after knee surgery.
Just awful luck for the Hornets.
They’re also adjusting back to a new/old head coach. Steve Clifford returned to Charlotte as their head coach; he previously coached the Hornets for five seasons, making the playoffs twice. Clifford coached the Orlando Magic after that for three seasons, making the playoffs twice there. So Charlotte is hoping he could bring them back to that promised land. And because of that injury bug, it’s looking bleak even this early in the season.
Smith and Rozier are questionable against the Lakers while Martin will continue to be out. LaMelo Ball is working his way back; he had a 25-point triple-double in a loss against the Clippers. Hayward has been up and down since he came back but it’s been tough to watch him ever since he left Utah a few years ago. He’s missed 20 or more games in the three seasons before this campaign and he’s already missed 17 this season.
As for the active Hornets, Kelly Oubre, Jr. is scoring a career-best 20.8 points per game. P.J. Washington is also putting in a career-high in scoring at 14.3. Jalen McDaniels is mostly coming off the bench with a 10.8 PPG average while Mason Plumlee (10.0 points per game) and Nick Richards (9.1 points per) are holding it down in the middle.
They just can’t put it together on the court. They’re currently last in offensive rating and 27th in defensive rating. They somehow shoot worse from three than the Lakers (29th in the league at .323). And to those that enjoy even deeper analytics, Charlotte has the worst effective field goal percentage in the league (effective field goal percentage is where three-pointers are given extra weight in a possession).
So the Hornets in their current incarnation have a difficult time scoring compared to every other team. And they’re in the bottom five in defense. Surely, the Lakers should be able to win this game, right?
LeBron James and Russell Westbrook are listed as probable so they should be able to go. At the very least, it gives the Lakers more firepower than the previous two games. Austin Reaves is listed as questionable.
The Lakers let the last two games get away from them. Phoenix blew them out nearly right from the jump while the Kings kicked their posteriors in the third quarter. So the Lakers should either not let the Hornets get the jump on them or (this is what I expect) put the Hornets away early. Charlotte has already gone through two 8-game losing streaks. They’ve had some big wins this season against Philadelphia, Sacramento, and Atlanta so it’s obviously not out of the realm for the Hornets to steal one at Crypto Dot Com Arena. Otherwise, it’s been a porous campaign for Charlotte.
So if the Lakers want to rise from this 13-18 record, they should beat a team with an 8-24 record. But stranger things have happened. You just don’t want the stranger things to happen to the Lakers.