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Lakers at Hornets Preview: Back to the 'must-win'

The Lakers took a loss last night, which is fine, so long as they win in New Orleans tonight.

Stephen Dunn


5:00 p.m. PST


After a tough loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder just a day prior, the Los Angeles Lakers are back in action in the second half of their back-to-back as they take on the New Orleans Hornets in the bayou. Last night would have been a huge opportunity for the Lakers to seize, but down the stretch they couldn't pull closer than five points, and the Thunder eventually pulled away.

While last night was in the luxury-win category, tonight the Lakers make a return to the must-win realm. They are still just 2.5 games out of the playoffs, and all three teams that are ahead of them in the Western Conference standings (Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz) are all in action as well. This is a big night for the low-end playoff seeding picture with such a small amount of games remaining on the schedule.

Metta World Peace twisted his ankle while doing the Harlem Shake after hitting a three last night (he actually stepped on Serge "Wear a Cup" Ibaka) but will play tonight. Kobe Bryant is also expected (was he ever unexpected) to play despite suffering from a ulnar nerve contusion to his right elbow, which happens to be the same elbow he sprained earlier in the season and is fighting off tendinits.

After struggling to get Dwight Howard involved last night in Oklahoma City, it will be interesting to see if the Lakers force the issue in the post. Dwight did aggravate his shoulder early in the game, but did not exit the game. Down the stretch he did, however, set plenty of high-screens that freed up Kobe to cut into the paint.

So, the Lakers dipped back under .500 last night, which is where they've been approximately the majority of this forlorn season that is fuming with a plague called injury-itis (that is the scientific term, I goggled it). The Hornets have gone 4-6 over their last ten games. While this should be a win for the Lakers, it will be a test of how much they left in the tank after running on fumes late Tuesday night against the Thunder. With Kobe playing through his injury, Metta twisting his ankle, and Howard tweaking his shoulder in the losing effort, it's no stretch of the imagination to think the Lakers may come out flatter than they thought the world was back in the good 'ole days. Hopefully that isn't the case and they take care of business without much question of the outcome of the game.

But this is the Lakers, and nothing has come easy. Enjoy the game tonight everybody!

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