By Mark Medina
LOS ANGELES >> The results seemingly provided the Lakers enough reminders of their season-long ills.
Since their season-long trend of poor starts and blown leads has continued, Lakers coach Luke Walton spent Tuesday’s morning shootaround addressing both themes. But it took the Lakers yet another day for those concepts to sink in during a 109-104 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday at Staples Center.
In a game that showed individual growth with almost every player, the Lakers (19-42) suffered their fifth consecutive loss after lacking the necessary qualities to secure a game that featured eight ties and 15 lead changes.
Charlotte guard Kemba Walker made a 3-pointer for a 100-98 lead with 1:55 left, and the Hornets held on from there. After Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell missed a layup, Charlotte forward Marvin Williams converted on another 3-pointer for a 103-98 lead. After Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson missed a dunk in the final minute, Charlotte wasted the clock. Though Russell made consecutive 3-pointers to cut deficit to 107-104 with 13.3 seconds left, the Hornets spent the remaining time converting free throws.
To think, after laboring through a poor start in Sunday’s loss to San Antonio, the Lakers (19-42) appeared as if they would play a complete game against Charlotte (26-34).
A day after Magic Johnson reiterated his hopes for Russell to improve as a leader, the Lakers’ second-year guard offered a balanced game in points (23), efficient shooting (8-of-17) and playmaking (nine assists). Two days after only going 2-of-9 from the field against San Antonio, Lakers forward Julius Randle posted his 13th double double of the season with 23 points, 18 rebounds and six assists. While the Lakers two lottery picks from 2014 and 2015 provided promise in their growth, it affected strong play elsewhere.
After coughing up a 19-point lead to the Hornets on Dec. 20, the Lakers mostly maintained their strong play. Sure, the Lakers opened the second quarter allowing Charlotte to go on a 13-2 run. That became a moot point, once, the Lakers entered the second half.
While Russell and Randle provided their game-long consistency, Nick Young and Tarik Black overcame their poor start. After missing four of his first six shots, all from 3-point range, Lakers guard Nick Young had 15 points on a 5-of-11 clip. After going scoreless in the first half and collecting two fouls, Black finished with 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting and five rebounds. Clarkson also added 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting.
None of that was enough, however, for the Lakers to finish the job in crunch time.
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