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Lakers aim to swat Hornets in finale of road trip

Dec 30, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) shoots against the Atlanta Hawks in the second half at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers will make the final stop of a five-game road trip when they visit the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night.

It’s a chance for the Lakers to have a winning trip and build on what have been rare feel-good moments this season.

Lakers forward LeBron James had a season-high 47 points Friday night at Atlanta, where the star player celebrated his 38th birthday as Los Angeles won for just the second time in a seven-game span.

While that might have been a situation where the superstar was motivated to demonstrate that age won’t slow him down, James said he generally keeps to a similar approach.

“I just try to stay as even keel and as sharp as I can be throughout the course of a full season,” James said.

The Lakers might not expect 40-plus from James on a nightly basis, but they’re not surprised when he ups his production. He has led the team in scoring in each of the past six games.

“He was just locked in,” teammate Russell Westbrook said. “He’s capable of doing things at an elite level for a long time as well all know. It’s just good to witness it.”

Los Angeles is 2-2 on its trek. Before leaving for this trip, the Lakers’ final home game was a 134-130 loss to the Hornets despite 34 points from James.

Charlotte’s P.J. Washington had a team-high 24 points in the first meeting with the Lakers. In the four games since then, point guard LaMelo Ball has been the Hornets’ leading scorer.

Ball has scored 20 or more points in 11 consecutive outings. He finally seems to be in a groove following an injury-interrupted early stretch, though Charlotte is 4-9 in games he has played.

But when shots aren’t falling for the Hornets, that’s when trouble tends to spread.

“We’ve got to make sure we don’t get frustrated with that,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. “We (need to) stay with what we’re doing, how we’re playing and we continue to execute.”

The Hornets have lost six of their last seven home games. The most recent setback came against a couple of the NBA’s other top stars, when Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant combined to pin a 123-106 loss on Charlotte on Saturday night.

Brooklyn’s 60 percent shooting from the field marked the highest rate for any Charlotte opponent this season.

“Sometimes you’re not going to make shots,” Hornets guard Terry Rozier said. “It’s about getting it done on the defensive end. That’s what we try to preach. Our offense is flowing better. We just have to clean up on the defensive end.”

The Lakers are 3-7 in their last 10 road games. James has scored at a higher clip away from home this season, racking up 29.7 points per game in 16 outings. Overall, he averages 28.5 points per game.

He has been going at a stronger pace recently, posting 31.2 points per game across 14 December games.

–Field Level Media