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Lakers vs. Hornets preview: Lakers try to escape Charlotte with a sweep

The Lakers come into Charlotte playing some of their best basketball of the year, while the reeling Hornets need wins to stay alive in the East playoff chase.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers get the rare chance for a season sweep of an opponent when they play the Charlotte Hornets tonight. The Lakers' first win this year came against Charlotte at the Staples Center, but they'll face a markedly different Hornets lineup this time around.

Cody Zeller and Gerald Henderson have replaced Marvin Williams and Lance Stephenson in the starting five, helping Charlotte regain its tough, defensive identity that propelled the team to the playoffs a year ago. The Hornets have gotten back into the Eastern Conference playoff race by having the league's best defensive efficiency during the calendar year. They'll slow the game down and force the Lakers to grind out baskets in a halfcourt set against their lanky defenders.

On the other end of the floor, though, Charlotte has its issues. The Hornets offense ranks at or near the bottom of the league in nearly every major statistical category, and the team's scoring woes have only been compounded by Kemba Walker's injury absence. Mo Williams has been a suitable replacement since he was acquired from the Timberwolves, but there remains a lack of floor spacing for any team that starts Henderson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on the wings.

The Lakers, meanwhile, have stumbled into a rare stretch of competence, bolstered mostly by the play of their veterans. That could continue - Los Angeles has fared better against offensively-limited teams this season when it doesn't have to worry about hemorrhaging points on defense. The Hornets shouldn't provide much of a challenge in that regard, but they will have some fight; Charlotte has lost 6 of 8 games and desperately needs to bank some wins before Walker returns.

Enjoy the game, and see if Byron Scott drives you nuts by leaving Ryan Kelly and Tarik Black on the bench while he chases a meaningless win.

Time: 4:00 p.m. PST

Station: TWCSN