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Lakers vs. Hornets Preview: Can L.A. keep rolling?

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The Lakers are going to be looking to keep their winning ways going when they host the Hornets on Sunday night.

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Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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):

Image via ESPN’s Lakers schedule page.

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.

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.

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:

Let us know if you like this, and we may keep some stats of the game coming in future previews.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.