Records: Lakers 9-40, Last in the West; Hornets 22-25, 10th in the East
Offensive ratings: Lakers 96.9, 29th in NBA; Hornets 102.6, 15th in the NBA
Defensive ratings: Lakers 108.4, Last in the NBA; Hornets 102.5, (T) 13th in the NBA
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Clarkson, Williams, Anthony Brown, Randle, Hibbert
Hornets: Kemba, PJ Hairston, MKG, Marvin’s Room, Spencer Hawes
The Lakers Coming in: The Lakers have now lost 9 games in a row or, said another way, have managed to lose as many games in a row as they have won all season. The 9 game streak is the 2nd longest in team history, but a loss tonight would tie that record. If you’re wondering the last time the team lost 9 games straight it was…last season. So, yeah, Byron Scott holds a couple of dubious distinctions in the form of consecutive losses (both for the Lakers and the NBA) and can add to his legend tonight.
The Hornets Coming in: The Hornets have lost two straight, but before that had won three in a row (and four of five) including wins over the Kings, Knicks, and Jazz. So, while they are currently out of the playoff mix in the East, they have been playing some decent ball.
They have also been dealing with injuries, with a slew of rotation players banged up or out of the lineup entirely. Nic Batum, Cody Zeller, and Al Jefferson are already ruled out while Jeremy’s Lin and Lamb and PJ Hairston are all questionable. On the good new front, they have gotten Michael Kidd-Gilchrist back from his shoulder injury, a needed wing defender who adds toughness and defensive versatility to a lineup which needs more of that with Batum injured.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up Kemba Walker and the fine year he is having. The Hornets aren’t a great offensive team (though top-half of the league is respectable), but Walker has been having a nice year averaging 20 points and 5 assists while having some big scoring nights to carry his team. He is a threat to go for 30+ on any given night and has gone for 52 and 40 points in his last 7 games. These types of games had him in consideration for the All-Star game, but there just weren’t enough slots for him this year.
Hornets Blogs: Check out At The Hive for your Hornets news and analysis.
Keys to game: The Hornets are well coached, have some scoring punch in their backcourt with Walker — and if Lin plays, that threat goes up even more — and play good team defense. This is the type of profile which can really give the Lakers issues as Walker is a tough cover and I expect Steve Clifford to have his guys coached up to stop the Lakers’ offensive sets.
This doesn’t mean the game can’t be competitive, but it will take a team effort and a few big scoring games from their wings. I’ll be interested in seeing if Clarkson can break out against Walker and, if he does, if he can start to create plays for his teammates. I’m also interested in seeing what Julius Randle can do against this team — specifically against MKG and Marvin Williams when he’s working against them in space. Randle has major strength advantages against both and should be able to use that extra muscle to get to the paint. Once there, the Hornets don’t have shotblockers inside to bother him — Hawes and Kaminsky are not rim protectors — so I’m interested to see if his finishing inside improves tonight.
Lastly, the Lakers will need to cover the 3 point line against this team. Walker, Williams, and Hawes all shoot over 36% from deep. Kaminsky is a threat from out there too and Troy Daniels is a sniper from out there. If the Lakers cannot recover to the arc against this team, they will knock down shots and turn the game in their favor quickly.
Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on TWC Sportnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.