April 18, 2024

The new starting lineup the Lakers incorporated two games ago became another new lineup Thursday night because of an injury.

And yet even in losing one of their defensive stalwarts in Cam Reddish because of a left groin strain, the goal the Lakers had in mind when they originally shuffled their lineup didn’t change.

Defense was and is the mandate for this group no matter who starts.

So, with Rui Hachimura starting in place of Reddish, joining Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Taurean Prince and Jarred Vanderbilt in his third straight start, the Lakers sought to put those words into action against the Charlotte Hornets at Crypto.com Arena.

“ Defense is the foundation. It’s our theme,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “It has to be our identity.”

Lakers star Anthony Davis celebrates after a dunk in the first half against the Charlotte Hornets.

Lakers star Anthony Davis celebrates after a dunk in the first half against the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The anchor of the Lakers defense is Davis and he was a force in the middle during their 133-112 win . Davis had four blocks to go with 26 points and eight rebounds in just 26 minutes.

His dunk over Charlotte center Nick Richards in the first half was the highlight of the game. It also was a moment in which Davis showed his emotions, a loud scream directly at Richards, which resulted in Davis being called for a technical foul.

Along with James (17 points, 11 assists in 25 minutes), Davis was able to rest in the fourth quarter because their teammates didn’t let up against the Hornets in building a 28-point lead.

Hachimura had 17 points, D’Angelo Russell finished with 16 points and nine assists, Austin Reaves scored 16 points, Max Christie had 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks and Christian Wood added nine points.

The Lakers changed their lineup ahead of their win over Oklahoma City on Saturday and kept the same starting five during a loss to Boston on Monday.

Before they played the Hornets, the Lakers’ new lineup practiced for the first time Wednesday . That gave them a chance to develop chemistry.

Lakers forward Taurean Prince, center, battles Charlotte Hornets guard Terry Rozier for a loose ball in the first half.

Lakers forward Taurean Prince, center, battles Charlotte Hornets guard Terry Rozier for a loose ball in the first half.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

“Just the communication,” Ham said. “It gives guys a chance to get on the floor, communicate, talk through some things, just whether it’s pick-and-roll actions, different types of spacing, the spacing and the timing when Bron or AD are posted or when they’re trying to double team. Different locations that we can put Vando in. Jaxson [Hayes], C-Wood, all these guys.

“And then again, go to flip it and go to the defensive breakdown and talk about ways we want to guard. What do we want our staples to be? And just talk through it. And again, started with the film. We got on the court, walked through some things, defensively and offensively.”

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