LeBron James, LaMelo Ball Star in Duel as Lakers Take Down Hornets 116-105

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 19, 2021

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, back left, scores past Charlotte Hornets forward P.J. Washington (25) and forward Miles Bridges (0) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 18, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers won their fourth straight game by beating the Charlotte Hornets 116-105 on Thursday in Staples Center.

Lakers forward LeBron James' 37 points led all scorers. LaMelo Ball led the Charlotte Hornets with 26 points (20 in the second half).

The Lakers are just one-and-a-half games behind the Utah Jazz for first place in the Western Conference. They jumped the Phoenix Suns for second place as well.

The Hornets, who had won four of five games entering Thursday, fell to 20-20. They are tied for sixth in the Eastern Conference with the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics.


Notable Performances

Hornets PG LaMelo Ball: 26 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds

Hornets G Terry Rozier: 20 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists

Hornets F P.J. Washington: 18 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks

Lakers F LeBron James: 37 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists

Lakers G Dennis Schroder: 22 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds

Lakers F Kyle Kuzma: 12 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists


LeBron Takes Over

LeBron James played through a sore left ankle that landed him on the pregame injury report, but he gutted through the ailment to dominate the Hornets on a night when the Lakers needed his scoring production.

James was exceptional everywhere on the floor, shooting 14-of-22 overall and 4-of-9 from three-point range. It was clear James was going to assert himself as a scorer early, dropping seven of the Lakers' first nine points. He ended up with 13 for the quarter thanks in part to a fast-break dunk and a layup following a spin move.

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

Year 18 and he’s not wasting a second. https://t.co/NO9z4gMtFE

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

Bron’s got the spin and his teammates got his back 👏 https://t.co/LuUUDaZME1

Defense turned into offense in the second quarter, with a steal turning into a lob that led to a James dunk:

Spectrum SportsNet @SpectrumSN

The steal. The lob. The finish. 😍 #LakeShow https://t.co/Uq4YHgtfUj

He ended the first half with 22 points on 8-of-9 shooting.

The third quarter was not as prosperous for the Lakers, who saw their 15-point halftime lead completely evaporate. The Lakers started regaining momentum, though, in part because of excellent ball movement punctuated by James' pass to Kuzma for a corner jumper.

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

Ball Movement ⏩ #KuzControl (x2) (📺: @SpectrumSN) https://t.co/XAw60O5y9H

James' crisp passing was on display yet again in the fourth quarter when he threaded a needle to Alex Caruso.

Spectrum SportsNet @SpectrumSN

If you make the move, LeBron will find you. 👀 https://t.co/gbxYPDdiLC

He ended up with eight more points in the fourth to keep the Hornets at bay en route to another clutch performance.


LaMelo Stars in 2nd Half

The Hornets came up short Thursday, but there were plenty of encouraging takeaways. Namely, Ball was excellent in the second half after a cold opening to the game.

The Hornets trailed 60-45 at halftime. Ball entered the break with just six points on 2-of-8 shooting, but it was all LaMelo afterward.

Thanks partially to his efforts, Charlotte came all the way back from an 18-point second-quarter deficit, tying the game at 64 following this Ball layup.

FOX Sports: Hornets @HornetsOnFSSE

WE GOT A TIE BALLGAME! @MELOD1P | @hornets | #AllFly https://t.co/oYG0qXDTpB

That capped a personal 6-0 run.

The Lakers pulled away yet again, but the Hornets responded, with Ball nailing a big three to bring his team within 86-85.

He took care of business often in the second half, including a step-back over James and a killer crossover that led to a circus shot for two.

FOX Sports: Hornets @HornetsOnFSSE

👀👀👀 One leg step back over LeBron! @MELOD1P | @hornets | #AllFly https://t.co/Fuwvf5qscF

FOX Sports: Hornets @HornetsOnFSSE

Running out of words for this kid.... @MELOD1P | @hornets | #AllFly https://t.co/HFa0QN4qZK

Ball also frequently found his teammates, slicing into the lane and hitting center Bismack Biyombo for two:

Charlotte Hornets @hornets

Nice dime for the JAM 🤩 @MELOD1P | @Bismackbiyombo | @HornetsOnFSSE https://t.co/6DDkVqKljZ

Ball has been nothing short of sensational ever since entering the starting lineup on Feb. 1, and Charlotte has gone 11-9 in that stretch to get into postseason contention.

Credit goes to Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier (among others) for their work, but Ball's presence has been the key to the Hornets moving in the right direction.


What's Next?

The Lakers will welcome the Atlanta Hawks, who have won seven straight games, into Staples Center on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Charlotte will also be playing in Staples Center on Saturday, but the Hornets will be facing the Clippers at 10 p.m.