The Los Angeles Lakers begin a three game road trip tonight in Charlotte. The Charlotte Hornets are coming off an easy win against the Orlando Magic and they’re a team with legitimate playoff aspirations. Given the weakness of the Eastern Conference, the Hornets could sneak into the playoffs with the seventh or eighth seed despite finishing with a losing record. Meanwhile, the Lakers seem destined to finish with one of the worst five records in the league which wouldn’t be such a terrible thing for their long-term future. The Lakers will keep their first round pick this year if they draft in the top five. Without further introduction, let’s jump into the analysis of tonight’s match-up.
Frontcourt: Al Jefferson is an overlooked player who may actually be a very talented scoring center. He is averaging 17.1 points this year on 47.9 percent shooting. His size and array of post moves will be tough for the Lakers bigs to deal with. Jefferson is the primary low-post scoring option for the Hornets and he averages sixteen field goal attempts per game.
Former number two overall pick, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (MKG) is starting to realize his potential. He is coming off of three consecutive games in which he recorded a double-double. MKG has improved his shooting technique and is also a versatile player who can defend multiple positions.
Cody Zeller starts at power forward for the Hornets and he has struggled with consistency throughout the season. Zeller had a nice game on Sunday night with 16 points and eight rebounds, so perhaps he will build off that performance against the Lakers. At seven feet tall, Zeller definitely has the size to make life difficult for the Lakers frontcourt tonight.
Backcourt: The Hornets are missing their leading scorer Kemba Walker due to a knee injury. The recently signed Mo Williams has stepped in and filled in admirably at point guard. Williams is averaging 23.4 points and seven assists in five games with the Hornets. He’s been especially dangerous from the beyond the arc with 3.8 threes per game on 42.2 percent shooting. Williams is on a hot streak right now and the Lakers guards will need to shadow him closely tonight.
Gerald Henderson rounds out the starting roster for the Hornets. The former Duke product averages 11.1 points per game on 43 percent shooting. He’s managed to snag the starting shooting guard spot from Lance Stephenson because he has a more consistent jump shot and can space the floor. Henderson also has shown some measured ability to run the offense and set his teammates up for baskets.
Keys to Victory:
Lakers Guard Play: Jordan Clarkson and Jeremy Lin have been playing pretty well in the past few games. The development of Clarkson has been promising and it’s clear that he could be a key piece for the Lakers rebuilding efforts. Clarkson’s length and athleticism could be utilized to disrupt and contain Mo Williams. Meanwhile, Lin’s offensive contributions off the bench have been a huge boon for the team. Hopefully he will continue his impressive play against the Hornets.
Defend The Paint: Al Jefferson totaled 23 points against the Lakers earlier this season and he will undoubtedly be a big part of their offense tonight. The Lakers big men will have to figure out a way to defend Jefferson and keep him out of the low-post. Jefferson is not afraid to launch fifteen footers, but he’s not as effective from that distance, so the Lakers should goad him into settling for mid-range shots.
Los Angeles Lakers (16-41) at Charlotte Hornets (24-33)
4:00 PM PST, March 3, 2015
Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, North Carolina
TV: TWC SN
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Hornets Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Mo Williams
SG: Gerald Henderson
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF: Cody Zeller
C: Al Jefferson
Key Reserves: SG: Lance Stephenson PF: Marvin Williams
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: Wayne Ellington
SF: Ryan Kelly
PF: Carlos Boozer
C: Robert Sacre
Lakers Ed Davis On Upcoming Road Trip