Even a day after the Los Angeles Lakers dropped a frustrating game to the Houston Rockets, players and fans are still sore about the number of foul-calls Rockets guard James Harden received in the contest.
Harden, infamous for manipulating his body and perfecting his Ric Flair impersonation, went to the line 19 times against Los Angeles, making more free-throws (18) than the entire Lakers’ team combined (15).
The quick whistles even prompted LeBron James and others to defend with their hands literally behind their backs in the second half in a not so subtle message to the game’s officiating crew.
Officiating aside, the Lakers will quickly have a chance to redeem themselves defensively against another difficult cover when they take on Kemba Walker and the surprising Charlotte Hornets on the first night of a road back-to-back.
Currently sitting at 14-14 — good for sixth in the Eastern Conference standings — the Hornets have been one of the most impressive stories in the league thanks to nightly heroics from Walker.
The 6’1” guard has been on an absolute offensive tear to start the season, averaging career highs in points (26) assists (6.3) rebounds (4.5) and has the third highest offensive real-plus-minus among point guards in the league.
Oh, and he is also averaging the 11th highest free-throw attempts per game in the NBA.
Walker’s legitimate three-level scoring ability, coupled with his dynamic first step, has helped place him as the ninth-highest scorer in the league heading into the contest.
On the Lakers’ side, the team also currently has the luxury of having a top-ten scorer in James, who continues to best Father Time, as he is posting the fourth-highest points per game average in the NBA.
Defending Walker and the rest of the Hornets (fifth in offensive rating) will have to be a team effort as the squad will once again be shorthanded as both Brandon Ingram and Rajon Rondo will likely miss both games of the back-to-back as they continue to rehab their respective injuries.
In a game that may ultimately come down to which team can contain the other’s offensive star, the Lakers must be more ready for the challenge than they were against Houston, even if questionable whistles that come their way.
The Lakers will take on the Hornets at 4:00 p.m. PST on Spectrum Sportsnet. All stats per NBA.com. You can follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexmRegla.