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Lakers vs. Hornets Preview: Can the Lakers keep the same energy?

The Lakers need to make it a goal to improve their record against teams below .500 with a chance to prove that against the Hornets.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Los Angeles Lakers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers will conclude their Grammy road trip in Charlotte where they will take on the Hornets. This will be the final meeting between both teams in the regular season as L.A. hopes to sweep the season series.

Start time and TV schedule

Who: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Charlotte Hornets

When: 4 p.m. PT, Feb. 5.

Where: Spectrum Center

Watch: Spectrum Sportsnet

Nothing perfectly depicts the 2023-2024 Lakers more than this road trip. After losing two games in a row to teams below .500, the purple and gold went on to defeat two of the hottest teams in the league. The purple and gold have a disappointing 13-8 record against teams under .500 this season and have a chance to improve that against a struggling Hornets team on Monday.

The Hornets, who have lost seven games in a row, are going to make this a trap game for Los Angeles because they could be more desperate to win this one. As we’ve learned about this Lakers team this season, they have the tendency to get way too complacent when they don’t respect their opponent. That’s why it’s not a coincidence that LeBron James said this moments after defeating the Knicks on Saturday:

That said, aside from ending their longest road trip of the season on a strong note, here are a couple of storylines worth looking out for on Monday’s game against the Hornets:

The new starting lineup

Last Saturday’s game against the Knicks was the first time Taurean Prince came off the bench. The Lakers started the game with Rui Hachimura, who contributed seven points and four rebounds in 19:28 minutes. It’s not a coincidence that Darvin Ham rolled with Hachimura against a Knicks team that rebounds the ball really well. The Lakers still lost the rebounding battle (51-38) by a huge margin but thankfully, not to the point that it cost them the game.

Now that Ham said that he’s hoping to stick with this lineup moving forward, it’s going to be interesting to see if this is the final starting lineup change of the season. The victory against the Knicks proved that Prince will still get enough minutes and the opportunity to play a big role as he did in the fourth quarter against the Knicks when he scored nine of his 16 points along with a couple of timely baskets to win the game for L.A.

Who is going to fill the void of Jarred Vanderbilt?

With Vanderbilt unfortunately expected to miss the rest of the season, the Lakers need to find a way to fill in the void of his absence. Obviously, nobody on the team right now can replace one of the best Swiss army knives in the NBA but at the very least, they can make an effort to do what Vanderbilt did best — hustle, rebound the ball and play hard on the defense end.

The Lakers did exactly that against the Knicks in the fourth quarter but their rebounding issues remain a concern moving forward. The next move for the Lakers is to figure out how they can make up for the forward’s absence — whether through trades or giving others like Max Christie and Jaxson Haynes more opportunity to impact the game in their own ways.

Why this game matters more than you think

With 31 games left this season, now is not the time for the Lakers to mess around. This game against the Hornets matters because every win now is going to be integral for the purple and gold moving forward. Plus, it’ll be nice to win three straight games before taking two days off and facing the Denver Nuggets on the night the organization reveals Kobe Bryant’s statue on Thursday.

What’s important is that this Lakers team continues to play with the energy and effort they did in the last two games. There’s no denying that the Hornets are one of the worst teams in the league and will be even weaker without LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward. This is the perfect opportunity for the Lakers to pounce on a team that will be on the back end of a back-to-back and climb their way up the Western Conference standings.

Let’s see if the Lakers can finish their six-game road trip with a 4-2 record on Monday.

Notes and Updates:

  • The Lakers’ upcoming two-day break will be their first since Jan 1 and 2. Although their schedule gets tougher in the next few weeks, they’ll have a couple of days off every now and then this February thanks to the All-Star break.
  • Contrary to their rebounding issues, what the Lakers have been doing well lately is turning the ball over less. It’s a nice development over the last two games and hopefully one that sticks moving forward.
  • For the Lakers’ injury report, it’s pretty much the same as last Saturday’s against the Knicks: Anthony Davis (bilateral Achilles tendinopathy and hip spasms) and LeBron James (left ankle peroneal tendinopathy) are listed as questionable while Jarred Vanderbilt (right foot soreness) Cam Reddish (right ankle sprain) and Gabe Vincent (left knee surgery) are out.
  • As for the Hornets, they have yet to release their report for Monday’s game but note that LaMelo Ball (right ankle tendinopathy) and Gordon Hayward (left calf strain) have sat out the last few games including Sunday’s match against the Indiana Pacers.

You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani

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