The Los Angeles Lakers are on the verge of losing their tenth straight game when the Charlotte Hornets come into town on Sunday night. The last time the Lakers lost ten straight games was back in 1994, when Magic Johnson was the interim head coach and Nick Van Exel was running the show. The Lakers have been disappointing to watch all season, and they have racked up 40 losses, earning them the second worst record in the league.
The Hornets are losers of their last two games, but are still in playoff contention in the Eastern Conference, as they are only 2.5 games behind the current eighth seed. The last time the two teams met, Kemba Walker lit the Lakers up for 38 points and the Hornets won 108-98 in Kobe Bryant’s last trip to Charlotte.
Frontcourt: Cody Zeller posed a problem for the Lakers inside in the last matchup, scoring 16 points and grabbing eight boards. However, Zeller has been out of the lineup for the Hornets due to a sprained ligament in his left shoulder and his status is day-to-day. Spencer Hawes has been starting in Zeller’s place and has filled the void in the middle with two double-doubles in the past five games.
Hawes is a versatile big man who has the ability to spread the floor with his touch from long distance, so the Lakers will have to close out hard when he catches the ball on the perimeter. The starting power forward for the Hornets is Marvin Williams, who the Lakers could not keep off of the glass in their last matchup. Williams is a great energy guy, but he does not produce many points for the Hornets.
Backcourt: Making his homecoming to Staples Center after spending a year with the Lakers is Jeremy Lin and his hair. Lin has had a decent season in Charlotte, averaging 13 points and three assists, but he is questionable for tonight’s game with a sore ankle. If he is able to play, Lin should receive a nice ovation from his loyal fanbase that he had in his sole year in Los Angeles.
The one player that the Lakers will want to key in on defensively is Kemba Walker. Walker embarrassed the Lakers in the last matchup, dropping an easy 38 points with five assists and six rebounds. The Lakers did not have an answer for Walker, but their young guards are quick enough to stay in front of him to prevent another scoring outburst this time around.
Keys To Victory:
Stop Kemba: The Hornets are just a pedestrian team in the Eastern Conference who are desperately trying to make the playoffs. The Lakers are no better, but if they are able to stop Kemba Walker from having an incredible scoring performance, they will actually stand a chance to end this losing streak. The Lakers young guards need to stay in front of Walker, and when they get beat, the bigs need to rotate quickly to prevent easy layups.
Win the Rebounding Battle: With Zeller potentially out for tonight’s game, there should be no reason for the Lakers to get outrebounded. Julius Randle has been consistent rebounding the ball all year, but he needs help from his teammates in order for the Lakers to finally out-ebound another team. If the Lakers limit second-chance points and win the battle of the boards, they will likely beat the Hornets.
Los Angeles Lakers (9-40) Vs. Charlotte Hornets (22-25)
6:30 PM PST, January 31, 2016
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: Time Warner Cable Sportsnet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: Lou Williams
SF: Kobe Bryant
PF: Julius Randle
C: Roy Hibbert
Key Reserves: PG: D’Angelo Russell SF: Anthony Brown SG: Nick Young
Hornets Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Nicolas Batum
SF: P.J. Hairston
PF: Marvin Williams
C: Spencer Hawes
Key Reserves: PF: Frank Kaminsky PG: Jeremy Lin SG: Troy Daniels