Hornets hope to continue winning ways against Lakers (Dec 20, 2016)

The end of a four-game losing streak could be the new beginning the Charlotte Hornets seek.

The Hornets hope for some carry-over from Saturday’s road win over the Hawks when they face the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C.

Before dropping four in a row, the Hornets, leaders of the Southeast Division, had been victorious in three straight and five of seven games. However, a lack of physicality has been central in the Hornets’ recent troubles, coach Steve Clifford said. They wrapped up their road trip with a 1-4 mark.

“I’ve been telling them for three weeks now: (Other teams are saying) ‘Make it hard on them. Bump them off every cut, bump them off every screen.’ Sooner or later, we have to respond,” Clifford said, according to the Charlotte Observer.

The return of point guard Kemba Walker from a one-game absence (personal reasons) helped boost the Hornets past the Hawks. Walker delivered 18 points and 10 assists against the Hawks.

Walker has been a steady force offensively all season, reaching double figures in scoring in each of his 27 games. He leads the Hornets at 22.4 points per game.

In addition to Walker, forward Nicolas Batum has made solid contributions, averaging 13.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. Center Cody Zeller, who contributed 16 points and 11 rebounds against the Hawks, is shooting a club-high 58.7 percent, which is the fourth highest mark in the NBA.

The Lakers have hit hard times in December, dropping nine of their last 10 games. A 100-89 win at Philadelphia over the 76ers on Friday is the Lakers’ lone win this month. In its last outing Saturday at Cleveland, Los Angeles lost 119-108 to the Cavaliers despite a season-high 32 points from Nick Young.

Injuries have hurt the Lakers’ cause recently. Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell, who missed 12 games with a sore left knee before returning Dec. 11, sat out the Cleveland defeat because the Lakers didn’t want to play rush him into back-to-back contests yet. Russell is listed as questionable for the Charlotte game, but Lakers coach Luke Walton indicated he would play.

“He was great today,” Walton said after Monday’s practice, according to the Los Angeles Times. “He came in and worked out yesterday. Did a one-on-zero (private workout) yesterday. Today was pressuring the ball, pushing it on offense. He looked good today.”

If Russell is unable to play, rookie Brandon Ingram could get another start. Ingram, who started against the Cavaliers, collected 10 rebounds, nine points and nine assists against Cleveland. The 19-year-old Ingram fell just short of becoming the youngest NBA player to post a triple-double. Ingram, the No. 2 pick of the NBA draft last summer, will be returning to North Carolina to play as a professional for the first time since he left Duke after his freshman season.

Lakers forward Tarik Black (ankle) is listed as questionable for the contest, too. Black also didn’t play against the Cavaliers.

Backup point guard Jose Calderon remains out with a right hamstring strain.

The Lakers are 1-3 on their current seven-game road trip.

The Hornets have captured the last three meetings between the two clubs.