The Los Angeles Lakers look to snap a season-worst eight-game losing streak when they host the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night at Staples Center in the second of a five-game homestand.
Despite a largely uncompetitive loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday, which Kyle Kuzma shared his frustrations with the team’s play by saying they “gave up,” the Lakers saw the return of veteran center Brook Lopez.
Now they’re poised to welcome back Lonzo Ball, after he missed the last six games due to a sprained left shoulder. Los Angeles hopes Ball’s presence, coupled with facing a team that’s dropped 14 of their last 20 games, puts them back in the win column.
In their previousing meeting this season, the Lakers defeated the Hornets by double-digits on the road. Jordan Clarkson led the way with 22 points off the bench, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope converted six of his 12 field goal attempts for 15 points.
The Lakers must contain the catalyst of Charlotte’s offense in Kemba Walker, who’s averaging a stellar 21.4 points and 5.8 assists per game this season. Fortunately for Los Angeles, the Hornets offense has struggled as a whole, as they rank 22nd in the league with a team offensive efficiency of 106.
On the opposite end, the Hornets have forced the least amount of steals in the league, and additionally rank just 21st in blocks. While they’ve struggled to create turnovers, they are among the best in protecting the ball.
The Hornets place second in offensive turnovers, which should offer a good challenge to a young Los Angeles team that has exceeded expectations defensively thus far.
Three Keys To Lakers Victory
Feed off Lonzo: The expected return of Ball should do wonders for a Lakers squad that has lacked in opportunities since the rookie point guard was sidelined with a shoulder injury last month.
With Ball back in the fold, the team will presumably get better looks on the offensive end, and the Lakers’ assist total should rise as a result.
Control the ball: As noted above, the Hornets have struggled all season long in creating turnovers. That bodes well for a Lakers team that ranks 28th in giveaways, as they should be able to limit those and maintain extra opportunities on offense.
Limit Kemba Walker: The Hornets have just two players this season averaging more than 15 points per game: the 32-year-old Dwight Howard and Walker.
Walker’s usage rate of 26.9 percent indicates that the Hornets heavily rely on him each game, and that should be no different against the Lakers. Caldwell-Pope will likely be tasked in defending him, but Josh Hart could also receive an opportunity off the bench.
Los Angeles Lakers (11-26) Vs. Charlotte Hornets (14-23)
4:30 P.M. PST, January 5, 2018.
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Kenatvious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Kyle Kuzma
C: Julius Randle
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Josh Hart, Brook Lopez
Projected Hornets Starting Lineup:
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Nicolas Batum
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF: Marvin Williams
C: Dwight Howard
Key Reserves: Frank Kaminsky, Jeremy Lamb, Malik Monk