So I mentioned this in the game preview against the Hornets:
“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.”
Stranger things did happen. The Lakers lost to the Charlotte Hornets in disappointing fashion, 134-130.
The Lakers looked lifeless early in the game. While the first quarter was fine for the Lakers (they led, 31-27), Charlotte immediately went on a 9-0 run. The Lakers did make a run in the second to tie the game at 67 at halftime. The problem was that the Lakers seemed fine trading baskets with the Hornets. I did mention that the Hornets were last in offensive rating coming into the game but remember that this team has been ravaged by injuries. LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward, and Terry Rozier all have missed multiple games.
We saw the familiar third quarter Lakers again. Charlotte started the period off with a 21-5 run. The effort by the Lakers, quite frankly, looked embarrassing. Luckily for them, they got a jolt from Russell Westbrook and Austin Reaves. They scored what I considered a hilarious 11 unanswered points since the team was lacking in vitality for most of the game. The Hornets did lead by 10 after three, though.
LeBron James finally woke up in the fourth. While he played some lackluster basketball the first three quarters, he turned in a hell of a performance in the fourth, scoring 18 of his 34 points in the last period. They came back from 8 down with over three minutes left.
The Lakers did steal the ball while they were tied 130 with about 35 seconds left. But L.A. botched a 4-on-2 break and Charlotte was able to get the ball back. In the ensuing possession, LeBron was called for goaltending on Hayward’s lay-up with 6 seconds left. Lakers had a chance to tie or win. LeBron’s shoe came off as he passed to Dennis Schröder for the open corner three. It missed. And it was Charlotte’s win a few moments later.
It came down to energy. The Lakers looked downright uninspired for most of the game. It was almost like they underestimated the team with the second worst record in the league. And we feared this would happen. LeBron had to summon all his energy to make a near-miraculous comeback at the end but it really should’ve never come down to this. Give credit to Charlotte; they came in ready to play even if they have gone through such a disastrous season so far.
They didn’t take care of the ball. Not that Charlotte did, either, but the difference here is that the Hornets took advantage of all the giveaways. The Lakers only had one more turnover than Charlotte, 17-16, but the Hornets scored 34 points off those turnovers while the Lakers only had 11 points. Just negligent play from the Lakers.
Hornets also took advantage of no Anthony Davis and outscored the Lakers in the paint, 62-48. And Lakers’ transition defense showed how poor they were; Charlotte had 29 fast break points compared to the Lakers’ 10.
As mentioned, LeBron scored 34 points (18 in the fourth). It’s his 6th straight game of scoring 30 points or more. Austin Reaves returned on Friday and had himself a 20-point performance off the bench. Russell Westbrook also went for 17-5-7 off the pine. Thomas Bryant had 8 points and 13 boards but left the game due to a hurt shoulder.
P.J. Washington was big with 24 points. LaMelo Ball had 23-8-8 while Terry Rozier also scored 23 points. I wonder how he was able to make those awkward-looking three-point shots he put up.
This is an extremely bad loss by the Lakers. Yes, the Hornets are a talented team even with their record but it’s not like they had any sort of momentum coming into this; they had lost 9 of their last 10 games. But the Lakers seemed inattentive until they realized they were in a professional basketball game in the fourth quarter.
The Lakers are now 13-19 going into their Christmas showdown with the Dallas Mavericks. I really got nothing other than to wish you readers Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Air out all your grievances to the Lakers, if need be. It’s still Festivus, after all, as of this writing.