The Los Angeles Lakers took on the Charlotte Hornets in their first game of 2023 on Monday looking to end their road trip above .500. The Hornets beat the Lakers at Crypto.com Arena. last week, but this time it was LeBron James and L.A. that came out on top with a 121-115 win to improve to 16-21. It was the Lakers that got off to a hot start in this one as Patrick Beverley and Troy Brown Jr. both hit early 3-pointers and James hit a pair of midrange jumpers to lead a 9-0 run, forcing an early Hornets timeout with the Lakers leading 14-5. Charlotte answered out of the timeout with five straight points of their own before James went into attack mode again, making plays for himself and his teammates. Russell Westbrook and the bench unit didn’t have much success though as he went 0-for-3 in the first quarter; both offenses stalled and the Lakers’ lead was 22-21 going into the second quarter. L.A.’s offense got going again to begin the second as Austin Reaves hit a 3-pointer and James completed a three-point play to stretch the lead to double digits for the first time. The Lakers also locked in defensively as Beverley blocked LaMelo Ball, allowing James to get out in transition for another easy bucket to extend the run to 14-0.
After the Hornets cut their deficit in half, Beverley answered with another 3 and then Reaves had a beautiful pass to James for a transition layup. Reaves also hit another triple of his own, which was good to see considering he has struggled from deep the last few games. Reaves continued to control the pace of the game, finding James for a lob and then coming up with a steal on an inbound pass before beating the halftime buzzer to extend the lead to 60-45. James stayed hot to begin the third quarter as he had six quick points to stretch the lead to 20 for the first time. He also got the crowd going with a ridiculous finish on an alley-oop from Dennis Schroder and then found Bryant for a dunk as the Lakers continued to roll. Westbrook was ruled out for the second half with foot soreness, which gave Kendrick Nunn an opportunity to get some minutes. He beat the third-quarter buzzer with a 3, giving the Lakers a 94-76 lead going into the fourth. The Lakers entered danger territory to start the fourth as the Hornets went on a 10-1 run to cut their deficit to single digits. Schroder helped keep the lead manageable momentarily with some big buckets although the Lakers continued to let Charlotte hang around. The Hornets got within four in the final minute but the Lakers made their free throws to close it out. James finished with 43 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, marking his second straight 40+ point game.