Hornets are a real concern
Uh-oh, the Lakers’ greatest fear.
It’s not necessarily Phoenix, Dallas or San Antonio, but the sting and embarrassment that usually follow a road game against a lesser team.
These events haven’t turned out so well for the Lakers, with four of their 10 road losses coming against Portland, Seattle, Charlotte and Memphis -- teams with a combined 55-105 record. Tonight they get the New Orleans Hornets (15-23) in the often-frenetic, college-like environment tucked away in the middle of Oklahoma.
Coach Phil Jackson has shown the Lakers over and over on video what is happening in these games. They lead by a few points, fail to extend the advantage to eight or nine after botching a few key possessions, and then fall behind as the home team makes an inevitable run.
They did it last week against Memphis, letting a 57-52 halftime lead slip away by surrendering an unthinkable 46 points in the third quarter (three off the record for a Lakers opponent). They trailed by 19 going into the fourth quarter and lost, 128-118.
They are 4-2 against Phoenix, Dallas and San Antonio, but can they beat New Orleans?
“What we’re doing on the road is playing to the level of our competition,” forward Luke Walton said. “You know the home team is always going to go on a run. In the NBA, it’s too good of a league to where the home team is able to get away from us and we can’t really get back into it. We’re not even really giving ourselves a chance to win because we’re losing by like 10 or 15 points. We have the best finisher in the game in Kobe [Bryant], so we’ve definitely got to fix it.”
Indeed, the Lakers have lost their four road games to lowly teams by an average of 11.5 points.
Bryant wasn’t too pleased after the Memphis stunner, promising the Lakers would learn to sustain momentum against losing teams.
“Oh, we’re going to learn it,” Bryant said at the time. “Phil is determined to make sure that we learn it. I am as well.”
Tonight would be a starting point.
“We’ve got to win,” Walton said. “We just have to. We just have to get to the point where we go into these games knowing that we’re going to win.”
vs. New Orleans, 5, Channel 9
Site -- Ford Center, Oklahoma City.
Radio -- 570, 1330.
Records -- Lakers 26-14, Hornets 15-23.
Record vs. Hornets -- 0-1.
Update -- The Hornets have struggled without Chris Paul (severely sprained ankle) and Peja Stojakovic (back surgery). They beat the Lakers last month, 105-89, when a sound Paul had 26 points and 11 assists and former Laker Jannero Pargo had 20 points.
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Muddle of the road
The Lakers, 26-14 with the halfway point tonight, have had four road losses this season against subpar opponents. Seattle, Portland, Charlotte and Memphis are a combined 55-105.
*--* ROAD LOSS MIKE BRESNAHAN’S COMMENT NOV. 5 at SEATTLE 117-101 Lamar Odom took only six shots and Phil Jackson could only joke that Seattle Coach Bob Hill “jumped up and down on a chair or did something foolish in his locker room that got them inspired.” NOV. 8 at PORTLAND 101-90 Zach Randolph scored 36 points, his high for the season until he matched it Friday, and the Trail Blazers beat the Lakers for a fourth consecutive time in Portland. DEC. 29 at CHARLOTTE 133-124 (3 OT) A 14-point Lakers lead dissipates when the Bobcats have a 42-point second quarter. Kwame Brown has three costly turnovers in the third overtime. JAN. 9 at MEMPHIS 128-118 Another weak team has another strong quarter. The Grizzlies get 46 points in the third, and the Lakers lose a five-point halftime lead.
Los Angeles Times