LOS ANGELES — Despite a balanced offensive effort, the Los Angeles Lakers saw more of the same on Tuesday night falling to their fifth straight loss to Charlotte Hornets 109-104.
It was a back and forth contest throughout the contest with the Lakers coming up short in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Here are a few takeaways from Tuesday’s tilt:
In his sixth year in the NBA, Kemba Walker is putting together his best individual campaign averaging 22.7 points and 5.4 assists that helped him earn his first All-Star Game nod.
Walker put that on full display on Tuesday night scoring a team-high 30 points with seven assists and five rebounds. He led all scorers with 16 points in the first half on an efficient six of 11 shooting from the field.
Walker was especially huge down the stretch with back-to-back key plays in the final two minutes with a 3-pointer and followed it up an assist to Marvin Williams on a corner 3-pointer to put the Hornets up 103-98 with 1:08 remaining in the fourth quarter. Lastly, he helped key the Lakers at bay in the waning seconds by calmly knocking down four free throws.
It marked his 11th overall 30-point performance on the season. This was also the 40th time this season that has scored 20 or more points, which is seventh most in the Eastern Conference.
“It feels good,” Walker said. “This a pretty important win for us. We wanted to go out there and do the things necessary to win this game. It feels good that we got a chance to execute down the stretch.”
Russell & Randle carry offensive load
Russell got off to a strong start with his aggressiveness on the offensive end of the floor notching a game-high 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting including a pair of 3-pointers along with two assists.
In the next two quarters, Russell looked to get his teammates involved more as a facilitator dishing out seven assists. This included a pair of impressive passes to Tarik Black and Brandon Ingram that led to facial dunks.
Russell picked it up late in the fourth quarter knocking down a pair of 3-pointers in the final 30 seconds of the game, but it proved to be too little too late. He narrowly missed recording his third double-double of the season with 23 points and nine assists in the loss.
“Being a leader is about making your teammates better and setting the tone with your play,” head coach Luke Walton said. “I thought D’Angelo [Russell] did that.”
Randle had a strong first half posting up all-around numbers with 14 points on an efficient 6-of-8 shooting with eight rebounds, and six assists. Randle continued for produce at a high rate in the second half nearly racking up a double-double alone with nine points and 10 rebounds in the final two quarters.
The 22-year-old recorded his 13th double-double on the season and his 19th game where he hauled in double-figure rebounding. Walton stated that he felt it was the “most consistent” game that he has played all season long.
“Julius was great tonight,” Walton said. “I told him before the game I wanted him to be more aggressive as far as looking to score because a lot lately he has been overthinking things and constantly looking to play make. I thought he did a great job of being aggressive but then recognizing when their defense wasn’t set.”
Step In Right Direction
A game after getting dismantled by the San Antonio Spurs, the Lakers showed more competitive fire against the Hornets.
Los Angeles finished the first quarter with the lead. Things began to shift in Charlotte’s direction to begin quarter that included hitting seven of their 10 shots in the period to grab a double-digit advantage. Meanwhile, Los Angeles missed six of their first seven attempts from the field.
The Lakers battled back to narrow the deficit, which remained the story throughout the second half. This included even holding a six-point lead midway through the fourth quarter before the Hornets closed it out down the stretch.
Following the game, Walton was encouraged by the effort put forth by his team had five players in double figures with four scoring 15 or more points.
“We are proud of the way we played tonight,” Walton said. “We’re not happy because we didn’t win. Losing is not fun, it’s not supposed to be fun. We are proud of the way our guys played individually but I think more importantly as a team. There weren’t very many selfish plays.”
There was some similar sentiment shared by the players despite falling short for the fifth time against the Hornets.
“I think tonight was great,” Ingram said. “We came out with a lot of energy despite some mishaps in the second quarter and lack of communication. I think we did well on the offensive and defensive end.”
It wil be interesting to see if Los Angeles can continue that style of play on Friday night against the Boston Celtics.