The Charlotte Hornets failed to pass their litmus test, and will be faced with yet another on Thursday when they travel to Los Angeles to play the Lakers. Los Angeles, to its credit, has picked up the pieces after losing several key pieces due to injury, recovering from a six-game stumble to win five of its last seven. With those aforementioned players still out, will the pride of Chino Hills, LaMelo Ball, have something to say in his homecoming? Or, will the Lakers continue on their roll? We’ll tell you where to look at SBR’s top-rated sportsbooks.
Charlotte Hornets vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Thursday, March 18, 2021 – 10:30 PM EDT at Staples Center
LaMelo Returns to L.A.
Thursday night should be all about LaMelo Ball, and for good reason. The 19-year-old, picked third in this year’s draft, leads all rookies with 15.8 points, 6.3 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game so far this season. He’s been so vital to the Hornets’ success that he was inserted into the starting lineup weeks ago when injuries piled up for them, a role he has yet to relinquish. When he’s been on the floor this season, the Hornets have scored 110.9 points per 100 possessions, compared to 107.0 with him off, and have seen their True Shooting percentage increase 1.7%. Charlotte’s game style has also changed; it’s running out at a quick pace of 103.4, which is 1.6 possessions higher than when Ball’s on the bench.
With all that said, the entire basketball world certainly excited to see Ball match up with LeBron James for the first time. Ball? Well, he’s not too excited. “Not really,” the rookie told reporters on Tuesday, when asked if he was excited to play one of the greatest players ever. “I grew up a little different. Not really on basketball like that.” Whether it be due to the fact that James will be on the other end of the floor, or the fact that Ball grew up just a 38 minute drive from Staples Center, this matchup will certainly have some gravitas.
Trends-wise, the Hornets have generally been a good team to back against the spread in 2021. They’re 21-17-1 overall ATS, and have not been fazed by back-to-backs, which they’ll be on Thursday. After playing the night prior, Charlotte is 5-3 ATS, and in general is 12-6 ATS after a loss. The Hornets will be less than 24 hours removed from a loss to the Nuggets on Wednesday night.
Finding a Groove
The Lakers have been — and still will be — without the services of Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol and Alex Caruso on Thursday. Los Angeles definitely felt the effects of the Davis injury (and the subsequent absence of Dennis Schroder) in late February, losing five of six games and slipping from the throne they sat on for so long in the West. Well, Schroder is back, but now Gasol and Caruso are missing. This time, it hasn’t been so difficult to withstand the blow.
The Lakers have won five games in their last seven tries, and have covered the spread in all but one of their last six games. Most recently, Los Angeles was engaged in a fight with the Minnesota Timberwolves for three quarters before pulling away in the fourth thanks to some tenacious play inside and exquisite passing. It enters a game at the Staples Center sitting just 9-12 against the spread at home, though its ATS record with a rest advantage, as will be the case against the Hornets on Thursday, is 5-2.
Over the past seven games, the Lakers’ defense has stabilized. It sits sixth in efficiency, while its offense has been a solid eighth at 116.5 points per 100 possessions. Defense should be the name of the game here, considering the Hornets sit just 14th in the league over that span. Teams with inefficient defenses have tended to have a rough go of it against the Lakers, and Thursday should be no different.
That said, for my NBA pick, I see eight points as too many in this spot. The Lakers were hardly dominant when asked to cover a 7.5-point spread in their last game, and this number should prove to be too high against a much stronger offense.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.