The Los Angeles Lakers played playoff-spoiler again, this time in a win over the Charlotte Hornets, 129-115, only a few days after ending the Sacramento Kings’ playoff hopes.
James re-entered the starting lineup for the March 30th home matchup after he sat out Wednesday’s road loss in Utah for rest. The King acknowledged that his team’s mind was on spoiling the Hornets’ hopes for the playoffs.
“We would love to see some of those guys on the same vacation trip as us,” James told the media after the win.
LeBron finished with 27 points and nine assists in the Lakers’ third win in four games. The team finished with 34 assists including Rajon Rondo’s season-high 17 assists.
“You know Rondo, his energy, him just having fun and being the leader, he is just infectious,“ James said about his starting point guard helping the team’s ball movement.
Rondo became the first Laker since Magic Johnson in 1989 to finish with 17 assists and five steals in one game.
“Getting stops,” Rondo said about the team’s ball movement. “It’s pretty simple. Shooters shoot and when they make shots it helps us.”
The Lakers were down a shooter coming into the game. Josh Hart was ruled out for the season after a procedure on his knee earlier in the week. Hart should make a full recover in around 12 weeks but Kentavious Caldwell-Pope benefited from an even more extended role.
K.C.P. registered 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting including six threes on ten attempts. Beyond his improved shooting, the veteran guard also addressed wanting to end playoff teams hopes.
“We wanted to be in the playoffs as bad as the other teams. Unfortunately, we’re just not there,” Caldwell-Pope. “So Why not just wreck some other teams?”
Hornets’ defense and playoffs hopes take an L
Charlotte entered the game desperate for a win to keep their playoff hopes as the 10th seed in the East. The Hornets trailed the Heat for the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed by 1.5 games.
Kemba Walker finished with 24 points and six assists. It still wasn’t enough to secure his first win over a team with LeBron on it. Over his eight year career, Walker has never beaten James. Walker is 0-28 when facing the King. A victory was even more direr since their next game is versus the Warriors.
“We came ready to play today, but I think after we got our eight-point lead, we kind of backed up a little bit.” Hornets forward Miles Bridges said after the loss. “We have to keep the pedal to the metal.”
Bridges finished with 17 points and five assists. He and Walker were part of the six Hornets players who finished in double-figure scoring. That included Marvin Williams who registered 13 points and five rebounds. Devonte’ Graham added 11 points off-the-bench while Frank Kaminsky added 13 as a reserve too.
Charlotte started hot by leading by as much as eight in the first quarter. It was the Lakers’ second quarter that helped them regain the lead.
“They gained momentum and then just built off of it,” Hornets guard Dwayne Bacon said. “We weren’t getting back or getting stops at the time, and they just took advantage on their home court.”
Bacon did his part though with 21 points including several big shots that stopped runs.
Defense was streaky to say the least on both sides. Still, Hornets head coach James Borrego said he did not like his team’s defense in the loss.
“You’ve got to give the Lakers credit, they made shots tonight,” Borrego told the media.
Los Angles finished with six guys in double-figures. Kyle Kuzma added 20 points and three rebounds while JaVale McGee contributed 10 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. Also in the front court, Johnathan Williams got 13 points in 21 minutes off-the-bench.
Speaking of reserves, Lance Stephenson added 14 points and 13 rebounds too. It was his second home game with season high in rebounds.
“When you rebound like that it definitely gets you going,” Stephenson said.
He added that the team is getting along better and learning each other more.
Quick notes from Charlotte at Los Angeles
Kyle Kuzma started the game with a one-handed jump that had the crowd going crazy. He would score another one later.
James followed Kuzma’s dunk with a one-handed, assisted dunk in the lane on the next Lakers possession. The Hornets would answer with a run of their own.
L.A. had only one turnover in the second after five in the first. At about the eight minute mark in the second half, Kuzma caught and shot a three to give the Lakers a 44-47 advantage.
The teams exchanged baskets including a LeBron jam at the 5:47 mark that made the game 46-49. Bridges also had a nice dunk a few possessions later that made it 51-50.
Another highlight from the second included a fastbreak pass to LeBron which he passed behind his back to Kuzma for the jam to make it 50-55.
KCP would hit a three a few a possessions later that made the game 54-59 with three minutes left until halftime.
Caldwell-Pope would hit another three off the dribble. Lance followed it up with a dance after he hit a three on the Lakers next possession, score was 58-67.
The action-packed second quarter ended with Kyle Kuzma catching a reverse layup that made the game 59-69.
Quarter three started with a couple of Hornets shots but it was the Lakers who would go on a run started by a highlight dunk from JaVale McGee.
L.A. would go on a 12-0 run before a K.C.P. three led to a Charlotte timeout. They could not score out of the timeout and McGee made another fastbreak dunk, making the game 63-83.
Bridges finally stopped the bleeding by hitting a three. LeBron answers with his own.
Still, the Hornets came within seven towards the end of the third after Bacon drilled a three. The third quarter ends at 101-91.
There are more back-and-forth shot exchanges. Eventually, the Lakers get the lead back to 20 thanks to LeBronfall away three. Bridges answers and the Hornets keep playing hard until the final whistle.
What’s next for the Lake Show?
Now, the Lakers will travel for a mid-day matchup versus the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday at 3 p.m. PST. No playoffs are at stake for either team but L.A. will test their new, found rhythm on the road again.