The Lakers are not going to the playoffs.
That hasn’t stopped them from playing the role of spoiler to several teams who have their sights set on the NBA postseason.
LeBron James had 27 points and the Los Angeles Lakers upset the Charlotte Hornets, 129-115, on Friday night at Staples Center.
“We would love to see a couple of those guys on the same vacation trips us,” joked James after the win.
Since the Brooklyn Nets officially eliminated Los Angeles from the postseason a week ago, the Lakers have played the role of spoiler to perfection, ending the faint playoff hopes of the Washington Wizards and Sacramento Kings, respectively.
On Friday, it was the Hornets turn as the Lakers lacerated Charlotte’s shot at the postseason thanks to a three-point shooting display by the Lakers.
“Every team that plays us gets up to play us and it’s nice to return to the favor,”said Lakers’ forward Kyle Kuzma on being able to spoil the Hornets playoff hopes. “Those guys were out of the playoffs 10-12 days ago, and then they won four in a row, and now they’re back. They tried to give us their best punch, so it was nice to beat them.”
Entering the game, Charlotte was 1.5 games behind the Miami Heat for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern conference, but with the loss, they fall two full games back of the last spot with seven games left to play.
The Hornets led by as many as nine points in the first quarter, but the Lakers quickly closed the gap thanks to the energy of Lance Stephenson off the bench.
“I tried to grab as much rebounds as possible and push the ball on the fast break,” said Stephenson. “When you rebound like that it can get you going, and it definitely got me going.”
Lance and his air guitar drained a trio of three-pointers as he finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds off the bench.
The Lakers went up by 20 points after a 14-4 run to start the third quarter and cruised to victory the remainder of the way.
“I think defensively we just couldn’t get stops,” said Hornets’ head coach James Borrego. “They got the shots they wanted, they made threes. Guys we wanted to run off the line, they got shots. You’ve got to give the Lakers credit, they made shots tonight.”
James had a game-high 27 points and nine assists, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 25 points and six three-pointers, and Kyle Kuzma had 20.
“When you move the ball and share the ball, it creates a lot of good energy, and everybody feels a pretty good rhythm,” said James of the Lakers’ offense that finished with 34 assists. “It’s very infectious. It can lead to some great things offensively.”
Kemba Walker led the Hornets with a team-high 24 points, Dwayne Bacon finished with 21 and MIles Bridgers had 17 as Charlotte’s four-game winning streak was snapped.
“We can’t keep this one in front of us,” said Bacon about the loss and needing to win every game to have a chance at the playoffs. “If we do that at Golden State, we might be out of it after the first quarter. We’ve got to come in with out mindset to defend, get out there and get stops, get easy buckets in transition, and stay locked in.”
Notes and Next
Lonzo Ball (left ankle), Josh Hart (knee surgery), Brandon Ingram (shoulder), Reggie Bullock (plantar fasciitis), and Tyson Chandler (flu) all missed the game for the Lakers.
Los Angeles will travel to New Orleans where they will face Anthony Davis and the Pelicans on Sunday.