The Los Angeles Lakers’ latest iteration of life without LeBron James has started poorly, but with a chance to discover a winning formula Monday at home against the Charlotte Hornets.
James has missed the Lakers’ last two games with an abdominal strain, and the team has lost both times, falling 107-104 at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday and again at Portland 105-90 on Saturday.
The Lakers have lost three of their last eight games and James has missed all three. Two of those defeats were to the Thunder, who have just three victories on the season.
The visit from the Hornets represents another chance for the Lakers to get a crack at a struggling team. Charlotte has lost four consecutive games, including a 120-106 defeat to the host Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.
In addition to the Lakers playing without James for consecutive games, Anthony Davis was slowed with a sprained thumb Thursday against the Thunder then departed in the first half against the Trail Blazers with a stomach ailment.
The Thunder and Blazers showed the Lakers are mere mortals without their full squad, and the Hornets don’t figure to cut them any slack either.
“Nobody really cares,” the Lakers’ Russell Westbrook said of the early injury woes. “Nobody cares if that’s happening, if guys are hurt, if guys are not in. Nobody cares.”
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said it is far too early for the 5-5 Lakers to worry about it. James is expected to miss Monday’s game, and Davis’ status is unknown.
“I don’t keep a 10-game marker,” Vogel said. “There’s constant evaluation going on all year, and every time this group is in front of us, we learn something more about what they can and can’t do, and ways to put them in positions to succeed.”
The Hornets were finding early success with their young core when they won their first three games and were 4-1 on Oct. 27. But they are 1-5 since then.
They appeared to have the energy they needed to defeat the Clippers, taking a nine-point lead with just over seven minutes remaining. Then the Clippers went on a thoroughly dominating 22-0 run, and the Hornets looked helpless to stop it.
When Terry Rozier made a 3-pointer with 7:09 remaining, Charlotte led 102-93. Then the Hornets went a full six minutes without a basket, and trailed 115-102 before Miles Bridges made a layup with 1:09 remaining.
Bridges and LaMelo Ball each had 21 points for the Hornets. Ball, a native of nearby Chino Hills, Calif., was playing in Los Angeles for the first time since he fractured his wrist against the Clippers last season and missed the next 21 games.
It was far from a pleasant homecoming Sunday, despite sharing high-scorer honors. Ball matched a season-low with three assists, one game after he set a career-high with 13 at Sacramento.
But the Hornets will get another chance in the same building when they face the Lakers.
“Next game we’ll move forward, learn from it and we’ll watch some film,” Hornets head coach James Borrego said. “We’ll get better (Monday) morning, do our walk-through and come back at it again. There’s another (game on Monday) night, so that’s the beauty of the NBA.”