CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Frank Vogel isn’t complaining about the Los Angeles Lakers finishing a seven-game road trip with a 4-3 record.
“I think all of our guys are really fatigued right now,” the Lakers’ second-year head coach said. “We are stretched really thin with all of the injuries and the compact schedule. To come out of it 4-3 on this stretch, we feel good about that.”
Kyle Kuzma scored 24 points, and the Lakers held on for a hard-fought 101-93 win against a Charlotte Hornets team missing five of its top six scorers on Tuesday night.
Dennis Schroder added 19 points and Andre Drummond chipped in with 12 rebounds for the Lakers, who’ll return home to face the Boston Celtics on Thursday with fans allowed in the Staples Center.
“It could be a big impact having that energy,” Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said. “That energy can fill you up.”
Devonte Graham led the Hornets with 19 points. Caleb Martin had 17 points and 10 rebounds.
The Lakers held the Hornets to 43.4% shooting overall and 25.7% from 3-point range.
The game was largely a battle of backups, with the Hornets missing four starters due to injury and the Lakers three.
Charlotte was missing more than 72% of its scoring with Terry Rozier and P.J. Washington joining LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward and Malik Monk on the bench. The Lakers, who are still without All-Stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, were also missing Markieff Morris due to a sprained left ankle.
The Lakers built a 10-point lead in the closing seconds of the third quarter behind a jumper by Schroder.
But Charlotte cut the lead to one with 1:54 remaining behind a coast-to-coast layup and a 3-pointer from Graham. The Hornets had a chance to take the lead after getting a defensive stop, but Graham turned the ball over and Alex Caruso made them pay at the other end with a clutch 3 with 43 seconds left.
“That was a big shot to seal the game,” Vogel said of Caruso, who finished with 13 points and six assists. “He does so much dirty work for us that it was great to see him hit that shot. ... He was the star of the game.”
Added Drummond: “He’s a hell of a player. His plus-minus numbers say it. When he’s on the floor good things happen.”
Lacking go-to scorers in the clutch, the Hornets were forced to rely solely on Graham, who missed a spinning 3-point attempt on Charlotte’s next possession. Caruso made two free throws to push the lead to six with 28.1 left.
Graham answered with a runner and the Cody Zeller appeared to come up with a steal in the backcourt before losing control of the ball. The Hornets were forced to foul and Kuzma slammed the door on Charlotte with four free throws down the stretch.
“They did what they could,” Hornets coach James Borrego said of his team. “They competed. I mean, we had the ball down one, that’s all you can ask for in that situation. I thought given the circumstances, the guys continued to compete and play hard.”