The Lakers (33-21) conclude a 7-game road trip in Charlotte (27-25) against the Hornets on Tuesday evening at 5:00 p.m. on Spectrum SportsNet.
Below are three things to know in advance of the matchup:
AVOIDING A TRAP GAME
There’s a tendency in the NBA for teams that are on the final leg of a long trip to be looking ahead to their own beds just a bit, and losing focus on the opponent in front of them. The Lakers will be fighting that trend in Charlotte, which is actually the fifth straight road city on this current trip (the second of seven straight road games was against the Clippers in Los Angeles).
With that said, L.A.’s Monday night loss to the Knicks should have them pretty locked in, after the 111-96 loss that featured 25 Lakers turnovers, and a 47-33 drubbing on the backboards. This is a competitive group of coaches and players who get mad when they lose, and that chip on their shoulder should keep the Hornets in their sights, not the subsequent flight home.
ABOUT THOSE TURNOVERS
With 25 turnovers that turned into 29 Knicks points, the Lakers continued an unfortunate trend that’s plagued them especially since LeBron went down, as they’ve averaged 18.6 turnovers per game, 30th in the NBA. Before LeBron’s injury, on March 21, they averaged 15.1 per game, which was 25th in the NBA, but just one more per game than No. 13 Boston’s 14.0 per game.
If the Lakers are looking for a reason not to worry, they can point to last season’s turnover average: a near identical 15.2. That ranked 22nd in the league, and, clearly, it didn’t really hurt the Lakers, who went on to average 15.4 miscues per game in the playoffs, ranking 14th out of 16 teams. LAL went 16-5 in the run to the title, and it’s hard to say turnovers were the primary culprit in any of their losses.
BANGED UP HORNETS
Much like the Lakers have been playing without key players, so has Michael Jordan’s squad, since Gordon Hayward’s been out for four games, and LaMelo Ball 11. And yet, the Hornets have managed to win seven of 11, with Devonté Graham stepping into the backcourt for Ball, and Jalen McDaniels starting for Hayward. Graham has averaged 16.4 points per game (42.4% 3’s) in Rookie of the Year favorite Ball’s absence, up from 13.2 (36.3% 3’s) prior.
The Hornets are better than you think on defense, ranking 12th on the season, compared to 18th on offense. They have been vulnerable to 3-pointers, allowing the 2nd-most in the league (14.8 per game), as well as the third-most free throws (19.2), while they’re in the middle of the pack for points in the paint allowed (47.2, 14th).