Lakers lose, 104-103, to a Charlotte team that shows it wants it more

Lakers bring their problems to Charlotte, and encounter more, as they lose to Hornets, 104-103

The Lakers used to have all sorts of problems on their annual trip here, most notably double-digit losses in back-to-back championship seasons when Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant were still in their prime and Derek Fisher would have laughed at questions about being a future NBA coach.

Turns out the Lakers still have problems.

It's more of a general statement these days, devastatingly so for a team headed toward its worst season ever, but the issues were localized once again Tuesday with a 104-103 loss to the Charlotte Hornets.

The only NBA franchise in the college-basketball-rich state took it to the Lakers as Al Jefferson ran over them, Mo Williams ripped through them and even Gerald Henderson piled on the points at Time Warner Cable Arena.

If Charlotte acted as if it had more interest in winning than the Lakers, it did. The victory pulled the Hornets into a tie with Brooklyn for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. That's with a 25-33 record. Must be nice.

The Lakers' effort was game for the most part, led by Jeremy Lin (23 points, eight assists) and Jordan Clarkson (19 points, four assists).

But there was another poor third quarter and a 50-50 score became an 11-point deficit five minutes after halftime ended.

Coach Byron Scott has tried just about every angle to get the Lakers ready for the third quarter. Fire and brimstone. Calm and cool. Milk and chocolate bars could be next.

There was one more possibility — hockey-style substitutions.

"The first two minutes of that third quarter, if they're not playing, take everybody out," Scott said. "Maybe I'll have to try that the next game."

The Hornets' public-address announcer was off his game too, crediting a successful fourth-quarter jumper to Portland's Wesley Matthews, not Wesley Johnson.

It didn't really matter.

Carlos Boozer had 15 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes but didn't play in the fourth quarter.

Scott said it was because Jordan Hill and Ed Davis kept the Lakers in the game, though Hill (10 fourth-quarter points) was better at it than Davis (two fourth-quarter points).

Boozer seemed fine with it in a season in which he has lost his starting job, been benched for an entire game, got his starting job back and now was held out of a fourth quarter.

"A lot of guys haven't played in the fourth quarter in games that are close, so I think Coach is trying to let them guys get some experience and get used to it for maybe the future," he said. "The only way you learn how to do it is by being out there. The circle of life, brother."

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: Mike_Bresnahan

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