The Lakers have lost 8 games in a row and the most recent defeat would be up there in the rankings for their worst of the year. A 37 point thrashing at the hands of the Thunder was not only embarrassing on the scoreboard, but on a review of the tape which showed the team simply was not playing hard.
Now, we can ask if the well is poisoned or if there’s just a confluence of very real factors contributing to how the team is playing, but just as the saying “this is a make or miss league” implies, at some point it’s about results. The Lakers need to be better and whatever path they need to get on in order to accomplish it needs to be sorted out.
The good news is that reinforcements are here. Brook Lopez returned against the Thunder, but in a bench role. We’ll see if that continues tonight, but him being back in the lineup will help some things. Maybe even more important, though, Lonzo Ball should be back in the lineup tonight as well. The rookie point guard has missed the team’s last 6 games and after going through a full practice on Thursday, and no setbacks reported, he should be good to go against the Hornets.
While Lonzo will help in a myriad of ways, I caution against too much optimism or a hinting that everything will be solved with Ball back. I do think the offense will run more smoothly and, as a domino effect, players will be more engaged on both ends of the floor with more touches and more general involvement. However, not playing for 6 games means some rust, some issues with timing, and even the most important player is only one guy. He’ll matter, but the other guys need to find their own stride, not just rely on Lonzo to fix everything.
Regarding this specific matchup, the Hornets are somewhat of a confounding team in that they have some good talent but have not found a way to put things together fully to this point in the season. I mean, at only 14-23, they’re only 3 games better than the Lakers. Injuries have hampered them, for sure, but I look at this group and really do wonder how they’re not better.
Kemba Walker remains a really, really good player and Dwight Howard is having a strong, comeback year. Add them to Nic Batum, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and an assortment of other role players (Jeremy Lamb, Frank Kaminsky, Michael Carter-Williams)…they have some talent and should be better. It’s just, they’re not.
That said, they did just beat the Warriors in Oakland and have not played since Tuesday (in Sacramento — also a W). So, they’re rested and enjoyed some of the finer things LA has to offer. The fact that this is the last game of their road trip could be blessing or a curse, but my guess is that they’ll want to head home on a high note by beating the Lakers and, with that, feel good about a 3-1 trip west.
In saying all that, I’ve no clue how this game will go and that’s mostly because I’ve no clue what version of the Lakers are going to show up, how much Lonzo being back will matter, and whether the Hornets will be feeling fat and happy from 3 days off in LA or not. This is why I could never bet on basketball. If you have predictions, let me know in the comments.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.