(Photo By: Ty Nowell/Lakers.com)

Lakers vs. Hornets: 3 Things to Know (1/5/18)

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

Here is what you need to know before the Lakers host the Charlotte Hornets.

1) It might finally be Zo time
He’s not at 100 percent, but he wants to give it a go. Lonzo Ball (sprained left shoulder) is considered questionable to play in this game.

The Lakers have sorely missed their starting point guard, losing all six games without him. Ball’s absence has been felt on both sides of the court.

The Lakers’ pace has slowed and passing has stagnated, while defensively they have given up a league-high 124.3 points per game in this stretch.

Ball simply impacts every aspect of the game. He ranks among the NBA’s top 10 in assists, leads his team in rebounding, defends his position (and off the ball) well, and has shot much better from 3-point range lately.

Even if he isn’t at full strength, a Lonzo return would be a needed boost for the Lakers.

2) Defense is the most pressing issue
As already noted, the Lakers’ defense has cost them chances at winning and competing with Ball out.

In that span, opponents are not only scoring the NBA’s most points, but also shooting its highest field goal percentage (52.0). Four foes have scored more than 120 points — an unacceptable mark in the eyes of coach Luke Walton.

Part of the issue has been a tough schedule, with games against Oklahoma City, Houston and Minnesota (twice) during this span. Another has been the absence of Ball’s abilities to defend point guards, block from the weak side and jump into passing lanes.

But overall it has been a general lack of the tenacity that made that Lakers a top-10 defensive team for the majority of this season.

The Lakers will need to buckle down, hustle back and forth, and communicate in order to return to the defensive prowess that had them competing in almost every game this season.

3) Lakers are looking to make it back-to-back versus Charlotte
Heading into December, the Hornets had won a franchise-record five straight games over the Lakers. But the purple and gold put that to an end.

In the fourth quarter of that win in Charlotte, the Lakers put three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard into a blender.

Taking advantage of the one-time Laker’s reduced mobility, the Lakers ran the same Jordan Clarkson-Julius Randle pick-and-roll over and over, keying a 26-8 run that swung the game.

The Hornets are looking for payback and have some momentum behind them, having beaten Sacramento by 20 on Tuesday.

Injury Report
Lakers:
Lonzo Ball (left shoulder sprain) is questionable. Brook Lopez (right ankle sprain) is probable.
Hornets: Cody Zeller (left knee surgery), Marcus Paige (G League) and Mangok Mathiang (G League) are out.

Tip-Off: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet and Spectrum Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: Gold
Location: STAPLES Center — Los Angeles, California

Click here to view game notes for this contest.

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