Hornets take bit of a buzz into meeting with Lakers (Jan 05, 2018)

BY AP • January 4, 2018

The Charlotte Hornets will be aiming for two wins in a row for the first time since Thanksgiving week when they visit the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on Friday.

The Hornets (14-23) are coming off a season-high point total in a 131-111 victory at the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday.

"We need to carry that over because our offense has not been very good up until this point, up until this trip, but things are starting to click a little bit and it's good." Hornets interim coach Stephen Silas told reporters after the victory against Sacramento.

They'll face a Los Angeles team that's lost eight in a row and the margins are growing.

The Lakers (11-26) beat the Hornets in Charlotte on Dec. 9, getting 22 points from Jordan Clarkson in the 110-99 victory, but they've gone 1-11 since.

Los Angeles reached a low point on the season Wednesday in a 133-96 loss to the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder, who shot 60.2 percent from the field.

"We really gave up," said Lakers rookie forward Kyle Kuzma, the team's leading scorer at 17.5 points. "They took a little lead and we just went to being selfish on the floor. We didn't compete on defense and they killed us. Flat out losing by 40, there's no in between about that."

At least the Lakers are getting healthier.

Starting center Brook Lopez returned against the Thunder after missing eight games with a sprained ankle, which occurred Dec. 18 against the Portland Trail Blazers. He had 10 points and five rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench against Oklahoma City.

Los Angeles has also been without starting point guard Lonzo Ball the past six games because of a sprained left shoulder, but he's hopeful to return against the Hornets.

"I want to," Ball said after practice Thursday. "Hopefully, they give me the go, and if they do, I'll be out there."

Ball was averaging 10 points, 7.1 assists and 6.9 rebounds before the injury, and the rookie from UCLA seemed to have found his shooting touch. He shot 47 percent from the field in the five games prior to the injury Dec. 23 against the Portland Trail Blazers, including 16-for-34 from 3-point range, to raise his season number to 34.9 percent from the floor.

It is hoped Ball can better facilitate an offense that ranks last in the NBA in 3-point shooting (32.6 percent), free throw shooting (68.8), and average the second-most turnovers per game (16.1).

Charlotte is second-to-last in the NBA in field goal percentage (43.9), despite have one of the league's most efficient shooters in center Dwight Howard.

Howard is still a recognizable name in Los Angeles after playing for the Lakers during their tumultuous 2012-13 season, the last year they made the playoffs. He's averaging a double-double for the 14th straight season at 15.7 points and 12.2 rebounds, and had 21 points and 12 rebounds against the Lakers last month.

Howard will likely necessitate Lopez returning to the starting lineup. Julius Randle and Kuzma have each moved into the starting five since the Lakers and Hornets last met, and one would likely head to the bench if Lopez starts. Randle has started four games this season and Kuzma 20.

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