Russell Westbrook, Lakers Fall to Hornets with LeBron James, Anthony Davis Out

Erin WalshJanuary 29, 2022

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball (2) drives to the basket past Los Angeles Lakers forwards Stanley Johnson (14) and Carmelo Anthony (7) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Jan. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)
AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman

After scoring a franchise-record 158 points against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, the Charlotte Hornets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 117-114 on Friday at Spectrum Center to move to 28-22 on the season. 

The Hornets entered Friday with eight wins in their last 11 games, powered by budding star LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges and Terry Rozier. The trio was a big reason Charlotte defeated L.A. and will undoubtedly be a big reason the team reaches the postseason for the first time since the 2015-16 campaign. 

Meanwhile, the Lakers have been struggling as of late, entering Friday with a 3-6 record in their last nine games. Given the team's struggles, and the absences of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, it's not necessarily surprising Ball and Co. turned up the dial. 

Notable Stats

LaMelo Ball, PG, CHA: 20 PTS, 7 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK

Russell Westbrook, PG, LAL: 35 PTS, 4 REB, 5 AST

Miles Bridges, SF, CHA: 26 PTS, 8 REB, 6 AST, 2 STL, 1 BLK

Carmelo Anthony, PF, LAL: 19 PTS, 5 REB, 5 AST, 2 STL, 2 BLK

Terry Rozier, SG, CHA: 20 PTS, 6 REB, 3 AST

Austin Reaves, SG, LAL: 16 PTS, 8 REB, 3 AST

LaMelo Ball Leading Hornets to New Heights

When we talk about the Hornets, the first player to come to mind is Ball, who is undoubtedly the face of the franchise. And he helped power the team past the Lakers on Friday night with one of his flashier games of the season. 

Ball has been on a tear as of late and now has three consecutive games with at least 20 points after scoring 20 against L.A. 

Charlotte Hornets @hornets

Starting off strong 💪<a href="https://twitter.com/MELOD1P?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MELOD1P</a> x <a href="https://twitter.com/MilesBridges?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MilesBridges</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AllFly?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AllFly</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/HornetsOnBally?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@HornetsOnBally</a> <a href="https://t.co/iBjKHTdhNz">pic.twitter.com/iBjKHTdhNz</a>

Charlotte Hornets @hornets

N🚫PE!<a href="https://twitter.com/MELOD1P?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MELOD1P</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/HornetsOnBally?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@HornetsOnBally</a> <a href="https://t.co/vrTtPdmCGM">pic.twitter.com/vrTtPdmCGM</a>

The 2020 third overall pick has taken a significant step forward in his second season with the Hornets. It's almost unheard of. He averaged 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists last season, his rookie year. In comparison, he entered Friday's game averaging 19.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 7.7 assists on the 2021-22 campaign. What he has done is nothing short of incredible. 

Ball's continued success is helping the Hornets reach new heights and has brought the team into the national spotlight. Friday's game between the Hornets and Lakers was shifted to a national broadcast on ESPN, proving the team is rising in relevancy. 

When Ball is on the floor, good things happen, and head coach James Borrego recently explained what he does that makes him so special and so effective.

"He impacts games so many ways," Borrego said after a 158-126 win over the Pacers on Wednesday. "He's on the board, he can move the ball, he can share it, he can score in multiple ways. He's got his imprint all over these games. Even if he's not scoring at a high level, he can rebound the ball. He's obviously a playmaker for us. He's a special kid, a special player. To be doing what he's doing at the age of 20 is special. You don't see this very often."

If Ball can continue at this rate throughout his career, the Hornets will be one of the most popular teams in the NBA in the coming years. 

Russell Westbrook's Effort Not Enough

With James and Davis sidelined, the Lakers lacked star power Friday night against the Hornets. Sure, Russell Westbrook had one of his better games of the season, finishing with 35 points to help give L.A. the chance to win. However, his efforts weren't enough as the rest of the starting lineup fell short.

Aside from Westbrook, the Lakers' most effective players were Carmelo Anthony, Kent Bazemore and Austin Reaves. All three played off the bench.

It's somewhat of a good sign that the Lakers got a lot of punch from their bench, but the starters' struggles highlight the fact the team won't find much success when James and Davis aren't on the floor.

James, who leads the team in points, and Davis, who ranks second in points, are the two most effective players the Lakers have. Davis also ranks first in rebounds and third in assists, while James ranks third and second in those categories, respectively.

James missed Friday's game with left knee soreness, while Davis, who missed 17 games with a sprained MCL before returning Jan. 25, sat out with a sore right wrist.

When James and Davis return, it will be critical they try to develop some chemistry with Westbrook, because clearly he can still ball when called upon. Otherwise, it could be a long second half of the season as the trio has struggled when on the court together.

What's Next?

The Hornets will host the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, while the Lakers will travel to face the Atlanta Hawks on the same day.