The Los Angeles Lakers (8-10) take on the New Orleans Hornets (5-11) on Wednesday night. On paper, even a struggling short-handed Lakers team should have no problem against the Hornets, who have lost 9 of their last 11 games. The Lakers, however, have proved time and again that the regular season is not played on paper.
On Tuesday night, the Lakers blew a 17-point lead and fell to 1-5 on the road this season. Pau Gasol is expected to sit out for the second game in a row with tendinitis in both knees. Not much should change from Tuesday to Wednesday with regards to personnel for the purple and gold.
Steve Nash and Steve Blake remain unavailable, and Chris Duhon has taken over starting point guard duties for the Lakers in their absences. From a lineup perspective, the Lakers have the same group that played in Houston on Tuesday night.
Coach Mike D’Antoni surprised nearly everyone by putting Earl Clark, an athletic forward in his fourth year, into the game ahead of Jordan Hill. Clark played 11 minutes and contributed 4 points, 1 block, and 3 rebounds. He did not play perfectly, but he showed enough to probably earn another run against the Hornets.
Entering New Orleans, the Lakers are surrounded by two storylines at opposite ends of the basketball spectrum. At the end of basketball greatness and history, Kobe Bryant is only 13 points shy of 30,000 points, and he would be the youngest player to ever reach that mark. At the ugly and viewer-unfriendly end of basketball, the Lakers have been subjected to the "Hack-a-Howard" strategy down the stretch for the last two games. The Lakers have lost both games.
On Wednesday night, New Orleans will likely be the site of Kobe Bryant’s historic milestone in the first half and the site of the "Hack-a-Howard" in the second half. This juxtaposition is what being a Laker fan is all about during these cold December days.
The final game of this road trip is at Oklahoma City on Friday night, and the current edition of the Los Angeles Lakers has not shown enough merit to expect a win at the home of the defending Western Conference champions. In other words, the Lakers need a win against the woeful Hornets in a bad way.