LeBron James drives vs Charlotte

Lakers vs. Hornets, Three Things to Know: March 18, 2021

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

The Lakers (27-13) carry a three-game winning streak out of the All-Star break into Thursday night’s contest against Charlotte (20-19). Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. on Spectrum SportsNet.

Below are three things to know in advance of the matchup:

SHORTHANDED LAKERS FIND RHYTHM
Before the All-Star break, the Lakers endured a four-game losing streak in the absence of both Dennis Schroder and Anthony Davis, and just when they got Schroder back, Marc Gasol joined Davis on the shelf. And yet, out of the All-Star break, the Lakers have found a rhythm with their makeshift rotation. LeBron and Schroder have led the way with the starters, and the trio of Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma and Talen Horton-Tucker has been terrific off the bench.

Harrell in particular has scored at least 25 points in three of four games, after a 25-point, 6-assist, 4-rebound effort in Tuesday’s 137-121 win over Minnesota.

“He’s just playing with a lot of intensity,” said Kuzma. “We need that. Obviously he’s doing a great job in pick and roll, catching and finishing every time.”

The continuity of playing time and even field goal attempts has helped both Harrell and Kuzma, who are being depended upon to carry a larger burden until AD and Gasol return.

HORNETS’ STING SLOWED IN DENVER
Charlotte has been one of the NBA’s best stories this season, as a team that few picked to make the playoffs now quite enjoying their current slot as the No. 5 seed in the East*. In fact, they’d been red hot up until a 129-104 blowout loss at Denver on Wednesday, winning four straight games (MIN, DET, TOR, SAC).
A record of *20-19 would be just 10th in the West.

They’ve been a very balanced team, currently ranking 17th in both offense and defense. Much of the national attention has gone to LaMelo Ball, the No. 3 overall pick who’s been terrific especially since being inserted into the starting lineup (19.8 points, 6.6 assists, 6.2 rebounds in 33.1 minutes). But he’s had some strong veteran help from Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward, who’ve taken some playmaking duties from the 19-year-old rookie. As such, the Lakers could use Alex Caruso, a terrific perimeter defender, who’s been out for the last two games in the concussion protocol. The team hopes he’s able to return; we’ll likely have to wait until Frank Vogel’s pregame presser for confirmation.

HARRELL’S HANDS
Charlotte ranks in the middle of the pack (15th) in points allowed in the paint, with Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo manning the majority of center minutes, and PJ Washington sliding up a position when they go small. Against Denver, however, they were dominated inside, conceding 64 points on 32 of 40 FG’s (80%), with Michael Porter Jr. hitting 7 of 9 inside, and Nikola Jokic 6 of 7.

While Denver ranks 12th in points in the paint, the Lakers are 6th, despite missing Anthony Davis since mid-February, and they’re currently enjoying the work of last season’s sixth man of the year, Montrezl Harrell. Here are his last three games in the paint, post All-Star break:

MIN: 11 of 15 (73.3%)
GSW: 11 of 13 (84.6%)
IND: 8 of 9 (88.9%)

After Monday’s win, I asked Harrell about Frank Vogel’s quote that he “Catches everything, and finishes everything.”

I think it goes more so to my dad. I played all sports growing up throughout high school. Playing football, playing receiver, tight end, you gotta be able to catch, cause you definitely want to be that one in the end zone, man. So just, a lot of different physical things like that. I did shot put and discus in track. I’ve always been real good with my hands in general. When you’re out here playing this game, setting screens for guys, you’re continuously in ball actions, you want to have guys with faith in you that (they) can throw it to you and you’re going to catch it and finish it for them, cause if not, it’s a turnover.
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