The Los Angeles Lakers (40-37) have to dust themselves off and get ready to host the New Orleans Hornets (27-50) on Tuesday night at the Staples Center.
They are coming off a humbling 109-95 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin combined for 48 points, 17 rebounds and 17 assists. Jamal Crawford also dropped in 20 off the bench.
Though the Lakers haven't been able to best the Clippers all season, their more immediate goal of making the playoffs is still in reach.
New Orleans is an easier assignment, but it is coming off a win over the Phoenix Suns on the road. New Orleans won 95-92 on Sunday behind Anthony Davis, who had 20 points.
The Hornets have been at least decent with five wins in their last nine games, but they have not fared well against the Lakers this season.
Kobe and Co. have won all three matchups and they will go for the season sweep on Tuesday.
In the first meeting on Dec. 5, the Lakers won 103-87 in New Orleans on the strength of Bryant’s 29 points. Ryan Anderson had 31 points in a losing effort to lead the Hornets.
The Mamba eclipsed the 30,000-point mark in this game.
On Jan. 29, the Lakers came away with a 111-106 victory as Bryant was in the midst of his playing-like-a-point-guard phase.
He had 14 points. eight rebounds and 11 assists. Earl Clark had 20 points and 12 rebounds and Howard had 24 points, five steals and four blocked shots.
In the teams' last meeting on March 6, the Lake Show came away with a 108-102 win in the Big Easy.
Bryant was out of his point-guard phase as he went off for 42 points. The Mamba's explosion offset a balanced Hornets attack that saw seven players score in double figures.
Here's how you can watch the Lakers continue their quest to reach the NBA's second season, and the Hornets attempt to play spoiler.
When: Tuesday, April 9, at 10:30 p.m. ET
Where: Staples Center in Los Angeles
TV: NBA TV
(per CBS Sports)
Los Angeles Lakers
- Steve Nash, PG, Hamstring, (Hip) Questionable for April 9 vs. Hornets
- Metta World Peace, SF, (Knee) Out for season
- Jordan Hill, PF, (Hip) Out for season
Part of the reason the Lakers have underachieved this season is their inability to stay healthy.
Between Bryant, Howard, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace and Steve Nash, the Lakers top five players have missed 75 games this season.
New Orleans Hornets
- Austin Rivers, SG, (Hand) Likely out for season
- Jason Smith, PF, (Shoulder) Out for season
- PF—Pau Gasol
- SF—Kobe Bryant
- C—Dwight Howard
- SG—Jodie Meeks
- PF—Anthony Davis
- SF—Al-Farouq Aminu
- C—Robin Lopez
- SG—Eric Gordon
- PG—Greivis Vasquez
The Battered and Bruised Lakers Struggle to Make Playoffs, But Will it Even Matter?
With Sunday's loss to the Clippers and the Utah Jazz's win over the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers are again sitting outside of the top eight in the Western Conference.
They trail by only a half game, so they still have a decent shot at making the playoffs. Four of their last five games are at home, so that gives them even more hope.
But does it even matter in the grand scheme of things?
Fans have waited all season for this star-studded group to play like an elite team and it hasn't happened.
You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone that believes the Lakers would beat the Oklahoma City Thunder or the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.
The Lakers have injuries throughout their starting lineup, and the old core just hasn't gelled. They may overtake the Jazz again, but it seems as though that may be the ceiling for this group.
Hornets Looking For a Win to Build On
Obviously, the Hornets are looking ahead to the future.
They have Anthony Davis, the No. 1 overall pick from the 2012 NBA draft, and they will likely receive a very high pick in this year's draft as well.
That said, they would love to grab a huge road win over the Lakers and play the spoiler role. At this stage of the season, with such a tight race for the eighth playoff spot in the West, any loss could be a crushing one for the Lakers.
The Hornets will be using that as motivation on Tuesday night.
Key Matchup - Pau Gasol vs. Anthony Davis
The Lakers need Gasol to find himself and to step up as the third major threat in the offense. He also needs to become a more significant factor on the defensive end.
Gasol is averaging 14.3 points and 8.6 rebounds in his last six games. Those are solid numbers, but without Metta World Peace on the floor, he may need to do even more.
He’ll have to contend with the young, athletic Davis, who seems to be scoring well lately.
He’s coming off back-to-back 20-point games, but his rebounding has been a little erratic. He had only three boards in the win over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday, but he grabbed 12 in Friday’s loss to the Utah Jazz.
If Gasol or Davis can produce a double-double performance, they will likely push their team to a victory in this one.
The Lakers will come out victorious at home. They have to look at all their remaining games as must-win situations, and that starts on Tuesday night.
New Orleans is 11-27 on the road and just picked up a win in Phoenix on Sunday. The chances that they come to the Staples Center and get their second road win in a row are slim.
My prediction is 110-99, Lakers.
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