The Los Angeles Lakers got their first win of the season on Friday, moving to 1-1. They will have their first chance to get above .500 this season when they host the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday night. Once again, they will be without Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo as they attempt to continue their strong play.
The Hornets may not appear to be much of a threat — and they really shouldn’t be, more on that in a minute — but this is secretly almost a must-win game for the Lakers. I know, I know, that sounds overdramatic, but really, the Lakers’ early schedule is so easy that they have to capitalize on every chance they get to gobble up a victory against a bottom-feeder during this early slate.
I mean, look at their next 18 games (via ESPN):
The Lakers need to rip off a bunch of wins during this stretch in order to take advantage of this scheduling quirk, because otherwise they are going to be facing much tougher opponents while trying to climb the standings later rather than having a little less pressure as they finish out the season in what will be a jam-packed Western Conference playoff race.
Aiding the Lakers in their efforts to stay on track will be the Hornets, who were not expected to be good this year and have lived up to that anti-hype through two games, despite some niceties from Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel at shootaround.
Most league observers have penciled Charlotte in as one of the worst, if not the worst, teams in the league. Frank Vogel says he likes "all their young players. They’ve done a great job of bringing young talent into their organization and they’ve got a chance to be really good."— Bill Oram (@billoram) October 27, 2019
While Charlotte is 1-1, the Hornets have posted the second-worst defensive efficiency in the NBA so far, allowing 117.1 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com. This might be in part due to the types of shots they’re giving up, shots it will be interesting to see if the Lakers can capitalize on.
This is how the Lakers have done in these two areas, in terms of their efficiency.— Alex Regla (@AlexmRegla) October 27, 2019
Rim: 65.4% (13th)
Corner three: 36.8% (17th)
The Lakers have shot a middle-of-the-pack 35.6% from distance so far this season, and it seems like the Hornets’ defense (combine with Charlotte likely spending Saturday in Los Angeles after last playing on Friday, and the relative undefeated-ness of L.A. nightlife) might be enough to jump-start the Lakers’ efforts from beyond the arc.
The Lakers tip off against the Hornets at 6:30 p.m. PT at Staples Center. The game will be televised on Spectrum SportsNet, and perhaps in a sign of how this opponent is thought of, it will be the only game in the Lakers’ first five to not appear on national TV in some capacity. It still counts just as much as those games with more eyeballs though, and while no one is going to celebrate too hard if L.A. beats Charlotte, the Lakers will almost certainly be criticized a ton if they drop this one. Let’s see if they can avoid that.
Fun with Small Sample Sizes
As a little bonus, here are a couple stats we dug up on the Lakers through two games, stats that mostly confirm how you probably thought the team was doing, and some that offer hope they may even be better than they’ve shown once percentages normalize:
The guys the team is worst without are exactly who you would expect though. pic.twitter.com/jJ4dlLkED2— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) October 27, 2019
The Lakers have to be encouraged with that shot profile for their opposition, and rightfully expect those numbers to balance out a bit as they don't face the likes of Kawhi/Lou on a nightly basis.— Alex Regla (@AlexmRegla) October 27, 2019
Here are the top four on-court net ratings for the team through two games pic.twitter.com/zdYNZcAHtR— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) October 27, 2019
Let us know if you like this, and we may keep some stats of the game coming in future previews.