LeBron James will be sitting this one out, which may be just what the reeling Hornets need.
What: Charlotte Hornets (5-6) at Los Angeles Lakers (5-5)
When: 10:30 PM ET
Where: Staples Center; Los Angeles, CA
How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
Make sure to have a few servings of your favorite caffeinated beverage on hand, folks, as the Hornets have a dreaded 10:30 PM ET tip off time tonight. These late games are a little easier to swallow on a Friday or Saturday night, but only the most faithful Hornets fans will be tuned in to the final buzzer with work and school looming bright and early for many of us tomorrow morning.
The good vibes from the Hornets 3-0 start to the season are long gone at this point. James Borrego’s squad has dropped four straight games as they face the Los Angeles Lakers in the fourth game of their western swing. Let’s hope Charlotte can end their skid tonight.
Los Angeles Lakers Overview
The biggest news coming out of Los Angeles is the health of LeBron James. The 17-time All-Star suffered an abdominal strain last week and was originally projected to miss about a week. But the most recent reports indicate he could be out as long as four to eight weeks, so don’t expect him to suit up in this one.
Without LeBron, the offensive load falls on big man Anthony Davis (23.1 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 50% FG) and guard Russell Westbrook (19.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 7.9 APG). Westbrook, as many NBA fans know, is a dynamic scorer but a notoriously poor outside shooter and is hitting just 26.8% of his 3-pointers on 4.1 attempts per game.
The most pleasant surprise for the Lakers this year is the play of veteran forward Carmelo Anthony. He has been a consistent source of offense for the purple and gold by averaging 16.5 points off the bench while shooting 48.0% from the field and a blistering 49.2% from the 3-point line on 6.5 attempts per game.
The Lakers then rely on a collection of ho-hum, serviceable but unspectacular veterans like guards Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo, wings Kent Bazemore, Wayne Ellington, and former Hornet Malik Monk, and centers DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard.
This roster would have been really, really good in, like, 2015. Instead, this is a .500 team coming off two consecutive bad losses, one to the Oklahoma City Thunder followed by a 15-point drubbing at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers.
How the Hornets Can Win
As previously noted, Russell Westbrook has a legendarily bad outside shot, but he’s also one of the most explosive, dynamic players in the NBA when he has a full head of steam. With LeBron in street clothes, Westbrook will have the ball in his hands a lot. The Hornets should dare him to shoot from the perimeter and strive to deny him both transition and penetration opportunities. Charlotte can live with Westbrook scoring 25 points if it takes him 22 field goal attempts to get there.
Anthony Davis will probably go nuts in this one. He’s too athletic and versatile for Mason Plumlee but he’s also too long and too skilled in the post for PJ Washington. It’s okay if Charlotte surrenders points to Davis. What’s more important is they limit him as a shot creator which could allow some of the Lakers fringe players to catch fire.
Offensively for the Hornets, it’s time to finally get Terry Rozier going. To say he has struggled so far this year is an understatement. In six games he’s averaging just 12.3 points on 31.8% shooting, including a Westbrook-like 24.4% from the 3-point line. That’s a far cry from his spectacular play last season. Let’s let Terry get loose in this one and see if the Hornets can steal a big road win against one of the league’s marquee teams.