The Los Angeles Lakers could have a winning record on their six-game road trip, but that will be determined by how they end it.
The Lakers travel to Charlotte to face the Hornets on Monday night, looking to win their third straight and finish the trip at 4-2.
“We’re playing some good ball, we got to keep it going on this trip,” Lakers star Lebron James said.
James had 24 points and Austin Reaves added 22 when the Lakers beat the New York Knicks 113-105 on Saturday, ending the Knicks’ nine-game winning streak.
The Lakers sense they could be rounding into form.
“The type of basketball we know we’re capable of and defend at a high, high level … (can) give you a chance every night,” Los Angeles coach Darvin Ham said.
The Hornets keep losing games but continue to be encouraged by rookie forward Brandon Miller.
“He has a lot of talent and he works hard,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. “You’re going to get better. He’s getting better for the right reasons. I think he’ll get better and better.”
Charlotte’s losing streak reached seven games after a 115-99 loss to visiting Indiana on Sunday night, though Miller tallied a career-best 35 points in the game. Clifford said Miller’s ability to deal with double-teams on defense is going to be crucial to his development.
“I think my teammates are pushing me to be more aggressive,” Miller said. “We know we have guys out (with injuries). Coming out with the energy to win a ball game, that’s important for us.”
Charlotte is using makeshift lineups because of injuries. The Hornets were without Cody Martin (knee) and Frank Ntilikina (hip) on Sunday, with Ish Smith making the start at point guard. Miller even took some turns at the point, but he didn’t want to dwell on those role shifts.
“We have to move past this one and think about (Monday’s) game,” Miller said.
Though much of the focus on the Hornets is on the youthful and inexperienced nature of the roster, the Lakers arrive with more established star power
Ham said keeping James and Anthony Davis in top shape is a priority, so in order to monitor their minutes, it’s important that players such as Reaves and Taurean Prince regularly provide production at both ends of the court.
In a Dec. 28 meeting in Los Angeles, the Lakers hammered the Hornets 133-112 with Davis racking up 26 points and eight rebounds, James adding 17 points and 11 assists, and four players coming off the bench to notch double-figure point totals. For Charlotte in that game, Miller had 17 points, behind only Miles Bridges’ 20 points.
At the time, the Lakers’ point total in that late-December game was just one shy of their season high. Since then, the Lakers have eclipsed 130 points four times, including above 140 twice. Both teams made 15 baskets from 3-point range in the season’s earlier clash.
Last season, the teams split the season series, but the Lakers won in Charlotte for the fourth time in their last five visits.
–Field Level Media
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