Lakers vs. Hornets Preview: Can L.A. Slow Charlotte's Electric Offense?

Action Network contributor Kenny Ducey breaks down the betting value in the NBA matchup on Friday between the Los Angeles Lakers and Charlotte Hornets.

Lakers vs. Hornets Odds

Lakers Odds +6.5
Hornets Odds -6.5
Over/Under 228.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via Caesars. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Lakers and Hornets will meet on Friday night in a battle between two teams trending in opposite directions.

With Anthony Davis back and some key pieces missing for Charlotte, could the total be in play? Let’s take a look at the numbers and find out.

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Are The Lakers Back?

The Lakers have won just three games in their last seven, and sadly that’s considered success at this point in time. There was a brief period from late December to early January, in the wake of an injury to Anthony Davis, that the Lakers had figured things out and went on a nice six-game stretch, but that period in time seems like a distant memory now.

Now, Davis is back and LeBron James is no longer playing the role of small-ball five, which had been working out so well for L.A. In the two games with Davis, the Lakers rank 26th in offensive efficiency, scoring just 100 points per 100 possessions. Of course, they do have one win, but it came against the shorthanded Nets in a game which they entered as favorites.

Davis has averaged 19.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks in the two games, providing L.A. with a little extra on defense. He posted a -1 in the win over Brooklyn and a -7 in the Lakers’ most recent loss to the Sixers, however, and his reintroduction has absolutely stymied the momentum this team had on offense with LeBron running the show at center.

L.A. had also ranked 12th in pace in January and is 21st in the NBA since Davis returned. The “old Lakers,” if you want to call them that, have returned.

Charlotte Offense Is Must-See TV

Charlotte is a little thin on the wings, but other than that things are looking good. The Hornets have won eight games in their last 11 tries, covering in all eight of those wins and winning as the underdog in four. This offense found a new way to impress us on Wednesday, scoring a franchise record 158 points in a win over the Pacers.

Unfortunately for Charlotte, Kelly Oubre Jr. — who hit 10 3-pointers in that win — enters Friday with a sprained left ankle and is listed as questionable. The same injury will keep Jalen McDaniels sidelined again, and that stings with Gordon Hayward in the league’s health and safety protocols.

Charlotte surprisingly ranks sixth in offense over that 11-game span with 114.1 points per 100 possessions and has instead relied on its defense to win games. While this is still not an overly imposing frontcourt for opposing bigs due to its size, it has packed a punch lately. The Hornets are 10th in rebounding rate over the past 11 games — something they have never been known for — and they’re holding opponents to just 35.6% shooting in the paint, which ranks second-best. On top of that, they’ve allowed the eighth-best field goal percentage in the restricted area.

It’s hard to overstate how important these numbers are, given the Hornets have been consistently taken advantage of in the post. Up until starting that run on Jan. 5, the Hornets allowed 44.9% shooting in the paint, which was fourth-worst, and ranked dead last in rebounding rate.

Lakers-Hornets Pick

The Hornets have really picked things up on defense, and are a completely different team than the one we were used to seeing even a month ago. While this offense is still lethal, the pace has come down just a touch and the rim protection has been pretty great. With that, I think Charlotte should have what it takes to put a lid on this slumping Lakers offense, which has reverted back to slow-paced basketball and post play.

On the other side of the coin, you have to feel alright about this Lakers defense at the moment, particularly if Oubre misses the game. With Davis back, it will be difficult for Charlotte to get points inside, and while it has shot the ball incredibly well it stands to see a bit of regression due to variance and the various absences we ran through.

With that, I think the under is a good call here.

Pick: Under 228.5