From Eric Pincus, LA Times: The Lakers won a close one at Staples Center on Sunday night against the Atlanta Hawks. Kobe Bryant hit a layup with nine seconds on the clock to put the Lakers up 99-98. The Hawks had one final chance to win the game but Josh Smith turned it over under his own basket and time expired Bryant scored the Lakers’ final six points, finishing with 34 on the night while shooting 13-27 (48.2%) from the field. The Lakers shot 48.7% from the field as a team but turned the ball over 21 times. Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Bryant each had five turnovers. The Hawks overcame a 16-point deficit to lead by one with 26.7 left on an Al Horford dunk. Atlanta’s 15th turnover came at the most inopportune moment for the Hawks. With the victory, the Lakers get back to .500 (30-30) for the first time since December 28. The Hawks dip to 33-25.
From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Kobe Bryant took off awfully far away from the basket, a lot of purple paint still to cover before getting there. He got there. And had more after that. Bryant’s latest whopping dunk of the season — and his most dominant late-game scoring kick — lifted the Lakers to a 99-98 victory over Atlanta on Sunday night. The Lakers’ struggle to return to the .500 mark that spanned two-plus months is over … for the moment. Climbing higher than .500 will be a substantial challenge: The Lakers visit Oklahoma City on Tuesday night. But the Lakers are officially respectable after Bryant’s 34 points and thunderous dunk with Atlanta shot-blocking extraordinaire Josh Smith right on his hip. Bryant’s path to the hoop on the play with 2:17 left for a 95-94 Lakers lead was cleared by Dwight Howard, who hustled in to seal Zaza Pachulia off after setting the initial pick for Bryant on the perimeter. Bryant said he knew he could turn the corner on the bigger Smith and Pachulia’s help defense couldn’t get there, so …”I just took off.”
From Drew Garrison, Silver Screen & Roll: Kobe Bryant had a monster dunk on the Atlanta Hawks when he drove past Josh Smith Sunday night that helped Kobe on his way to pushing the Los Angeles Lakers back up to .500 on the season. Atlanta gambled on mismatches much of the night which left Kobe to do his part as a primary scorer, or as he said in his post-game interview. that it’s his “responsibility to cook ’em” when presented a mismatch on the perimeter. Kobe was cookin’. Let’s take look at the anatomy of the play in our journey to discover why this play was awesome (hint: Kobe, jump, dunk).
From Suki Thind, Lakers Nation: According to Mike Bresnahan of the L.A. Times, Metta World Peace–in lieu of his recent “flagrant foul 2? designation–feels a certain way about how opposing players guard Dwight Howard: “Dwight gets fouled a lot intentionally. Dwight goes up, they push him in the back. So I’ll let you guys do your research from here on out, just monitor how Dwight gets fouled. Is it an intentional foul or not? Because y’all aren’t looking for those things unless it’s brought to your attention.” Personally, I think World Peace is correct if he’s referring to “intentional” fouls as “flagrant” fouls, and pointing at the league to do a better job of calling it. Metta didn’t exactly call out the NBA, but it’s true that Dwight Howard often does get fouled harder than most other players–often times even harder than taller and/or heavier players–yet rarely does a flagrant foul get called in favor of Howard.
From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: When trying to get their players to relish the fundamentals rather than squirt more mustard on the hot dog with the fancier play, coaches at all levels remind their guys that a dunk is not worth more than a layup. They both count for two points. Kobe Bryant put that theory to the test Sunday during the Los Angeles Lakers’ 99-98 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. Yes, Bryant’s driving layup with 9 seconds left over the outstretched arms of the 6-foot-9 Josh Smith proved to be the game winner. However, it was Bryant’s turn-back-the-clock dunk two minutes earlier — when he blew by Smith and took off past the charge circle — that might well have decided the contest. “It’s more of a message to my team here to try to kind of have that will, that hunger to push through it by any means necessary,” Bryant said after finishing with a game-high 34 points, which is right in line with the 34.8 points on 56.9 percent shooting he’s been putting up over the past five games. The Lakers have gone 4-1 in that stretch to post a 30-30 record and get back to .500 for the first time since Dec. 28.