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Lakers vs. Hornets Preview: Can L.A. at least put up a fight?

There’s no question that this is going to be a tough game for the Lakers to win but this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t put up a fight

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

There’s no sugarcoating it: the Lakers are a horrible basketball team right now.

They’re so bad that they made a mediocre Portland Trail Blazers team look like an all-star squad on Saturday. The Lakers’ past two games have been extremely frustrating, to the point that Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony have already called out the team’s lack of overall effort 10 games into the season. To make things juicier, Frank Vogel also subtly mentioned that this current team’s personnel is struggling to keep up with his defensive schemes.

It’s been a difficult and dramatic past few days for the Lakers, and it’s only going to get tougher as they face LaMelo Ball and an improved Charlotte Hornets squad at home on Monday.

Look, I can go on and talk about how the Lakers can attempt to outperform the Hornets, but that would be moot if the purple and gold continue to play with the same effort they have in their past few games. Despite being short-handed, the Lakers have to at least play like they believe they can win games and — as what Howard himself said — perform with more energy and effort instead of making excuses.

The Hornets — who will be on the second night of a back-to-back — currently have the same record as the Lakers (5-5) prior to Sunday’s contest with the Clippers. But unlike the Lakers, Charlotte has faced tougher opponents and can actually defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder. Aside from having arguably the best broadcasters in the league, the Hornets rank number one in the league in points per game (114.2) and have the sixth-best offensive rating (110.6) led by LaMelo Ball and the improved play of Miles Bridges.

Charlotte loves to share the basketball and attempt 3-point shots. They rank fourth in the league in assists and 3-point attempts. When I say they love to share the basketball, I mean this kind of beautiful ball movement that leads to high percentage shots:

And sadly, this is the type of systematic offense that the Lakers have struggled to contain in their first 10 games. L.A. has to put more effort in closing out and guarding the perimeter. Otherwise, the Hornets will treat Monday’s game as a 3-point contest.

The Lakers don’t have either the best point-of-attack nor back-end defenders — concerning since that comprises most of the defense but they can at least avoid blowing individual assignments and play sharp team defense like how the Warriors did against the Hornets last Wednesday:

Aside from defense, the Lakers’ bigs — yes, I’m referring to DeAndre Jordan — need to find a way to win the rebounding battle vs. this young Charlotte squad that doesn’t like to crash the boards often. On offense, it would be great if L.A.’s starting five actually scores more than 24 points this time and if Russell Westbrook led the team by being the best point guard on the floor. The Lakers also have to put Mason Plumlee in ball screens similar to what the Warriors did as often as possible as well.

There’s no question that this is going to be a tough game for the Lakers to win but this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t put up a fight. They simply have to improve their body language, effort and performance especially as they continue to face adversity. If a young Charlotte Hornets team outhustles and blows this Lakers team out at STAPLES Center on Monday, then maybe it’s time to question this team’s grit and desire to win a championship.

Notes and Updates

  • Trevor Ariza (right ankle injury recovery), Talen Horton-Tucker (right thumb injury recovery), LeBron James (rectus abdominis strain) and Kendrick Nunn (right knee bone bruise) will be out on Monday. Anthony Davis (right thumb sprain) and Sekou Doumbouya and Jay Huff (two-way contracts) are questionable.
  • Around the league, there have been a couple of feel-good stories you might want to catch up on. First, Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic torched the Boston Celtics after hitting his second career game-winner against them on Saturday. Giannis Antetokounmpo also shared how much fun he had at Harry Styles’ concert. And it seems Joel Embiid and Lonzo Ball are just fine after the former nearly decapitated the former Laker on Saturday.

The Lakers and Hornets will tip-off at 7:30 p.m PT on Monday. The game will once again be televised nationally on NBA TV and on Spectrum SportsNet.

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