Records: Lakers 34-31 (8th in the West), Hawks 34-29 (7th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 105.8 (8th in the NBA), Hawks 102.1 (16th in the NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.6 (18th in the NBA), Hawks 101.4 (10th in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Earl Clark, Dwight Howard
Hawks: Jeff Teague, DeShawn Stevenson, Josh Smith, Anthony Tolliver, Al Horford
Injuries: Lakers: Pau Gasol (out), Jordan Hill (out for the season); Hawks: Jeff Teague (questionable), Lou Williams (out for the season), Zaza Pachulia (out)
Hawks Blogs: Give a visit to Hawks Hoop and Peach Tree Hoops for all your news and analysis.
Keys to game: Since these two teams played 5 games ago, the Lakers have gone 4-1 (including 4 wins in a row) while the Hawks have gone 1-4 (including 3 losses in a row; 6 losses in their last 7 games). In that stretch, the Lakers have played mostly lottery bound teams, had some close scares, but then played quite professionally the past two wins over the Bulls and Magic. The Hawks, meanwhile, have played mostly highly regarded playoff teams and had a few close games but have mostly suffered double digit defeats.
Based solely off recent events, the Lakers should be slightly favored even though the game is in Atlanta. And while both teams played last night, the Hawks sat their starters for most of the 4th quarter against the streaking Heat and the Lakers’ starters — who did play heavy minutes — got plenty of in game stoppages due to Dwight Howard’s parade to the free throw line. Basically, fatigue shouldn’t be a problem though Atlanta may be without Jeff Teague who rolled his ankle against the Heat and is questionable (updates to come once we know for sure).
Because these two teams just played, there’s really not much new to add about what the Lakers need to do to win this game. The last contest saw Dwight Howard control the paint, Kobe work in isolation against Josh Smith to good success, and Steve Nash play a very good second half. On the Hawks side, they rode good shooting nights from Smith and Horford to keep the game within striking distance while exploiting the threat of Kyle Korver coming off screens to create good looks in the half court. With a hot shooting Devin Harris sprinkled into the 2nd half, the last game was pretty close with a Kobe dunk, another finish in the lane, and a defensive stop being the difference.
Tonight, then, the Lakers focus should be going back to the things that worked in the last game while paying extra attention to the things that Atlanta did to hurt them. Looking for Dwight against their big man rotation would be a good place to start with Dwight having physical advantages over the various defenders he’s likely to see. Looking for Kobe against Smith is also an option to explore, though after dealing with Deng and Afflalo to mixed results, another long and active defender may again slow him down. In any event, the Lakers have advantages on offense, especially when using the P&R, and should look to exploit those until the Hawks prove they can stop that play and the derivative options off it.
Defensively, the Lakers must do a better job guarding all the screen actions the Hawks like to run. I’ve mentioned the Korver pin down action already, but the Hawks also love a big to big screen between Smith and Horford where big Al sets a screen at the elbow, slips to the rim hard with Smith delivering a lob for an easy finish. The Lakers must recognize this play as it develops and sit back in the paint to not allow Horford to release cleanly. Make Smith a shooter and not a passer and take your chances with a below average jumpshooter firing away from 16 feet.
Another thing to watch for will be substitution patterns, especially on the Hawks’ side. In the last game, head coach Larry Drew played long stretches with ineffective offensive players like Pachulia and Johan Petro at Center with DeShawn Stevenson starting at SG. Lineups with any combination of those three were awful offensively (surprise!) and allowed the Lakers to create the separation the Hawks battled back against all game. Tonight Pachulia isn’t expected to play and in his place Anthony Tolliver — a floor spacing PF — could start instead. This should help the Hawks offensively, but puts stress on their defense with Horford defending Dwight on an island. If Horford can’t defend without fouling, we’re likely to see Petro again and that should allow Dwight more defensive freedom as a roamer and helper on all those screen sets the Hawks like to run.
A win tonight would not only equal the Lakers longest streak of the year (5 games), it would ensure a winning road trip before the team visits the Pacers on Friday. It would also prove to be another quality win under less than ideal circumstances (2nd night of a back to back) against a team who will surely be seeking revenge for the close loss 10 days ago. Things are finally clicking for this team, let’s see if they can keep it going.
UPDATE: Mike Trudell of Lakers.com is reporting that Jeff Teague has been ruled out tonight. And, if that wasn’t enough, Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times is reporting that Josh Smith has also been ruled out due to a knee issue. Both players being out will severely test the Hawks’ depth and greatly improves the Lakers chances at getting a win tonight.
I’d guess that Devin Harris will start in Teague’s place and that Kyle Korver will start in place of Smith. Both are quality replacements and as mentioned above, were key fixtures in the last game these two teams faced off. Both are very good offensive options with Harris being a solid defender who offers a bit more size than Teague. That said, two bench players moving up to the starting group with Pachulia also out will mean heavy minutes for the starters and some key minutes going to lesser talented players when the Hawks are forced to play their reserves.
Where you can watch: 4:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.
Kobe Alert: A quiet game for KB, but at this point everything he does is just adding to a mountain of previous accomplishment, thereby further enhancing his already legendary status in NBA history. Against the Magic, KB vaulted over Juwan Howard and Jermaine O’Neal to move into 61st on the Def Rebounds list, behind Mark Eaton in 60th. One more rebound of any kind and he will have 6500 for his career. In about 4 games he should play in his 45,000th minute, and he is closing in on Moses for 12th there. He needs 61 more FGs to catch Elvin for 6th. Just 153 more points to catch WTS-TBD-#13. Making the playoffs is huge for Kobe and these Alerts. His playoff rankings are incredible and he is poised to move up across the board. Thanks for the props from KenOak, NxRammer, Ken, Chearn, jodial, and others. Kobe Rules !!!
david h says
darius: as always, another insightful game preview. this time against the slightly winged atlanta hawks. nevertheless, as you say, this laker team is finally clicking, let’s see if we can keep it going – fully agree in that both teams are coming in back to back regardless of the home team’s inherent advantage.
again, apologies for yesterday’s implied hurry up and let’s see the game preview. was meant to be a joke. think you figured that out but needed to point out the importance of hard work as proven by your body of work; pretty much day in day out.
As always, keep it up; we should all be as deligent.
tonite, another winnable one for the team finally clicking.
a win tonight gives them a little more space from the jazz, who play okc tonight. have to give credit to the players and coaches for slowly getting it together. considering this year, getting into the playoffs would be an accomplishment (not saying that is/was/should be the goal), and hopefully they can snag the 6th spot.
Nice team win last nite. Tonight the Lakers have a good opportunity to increase their lead over the Jazz from 1/2 game to 1 1/2 games since the Jazz will be visiting OKC. Also a win keeps them w/i a 1/2 game of the Rockets who figure to beat the Suns at home.
Can’t take the Hawks likely, I’m sure they want D-12 to see them as a viable landing spot next season.
Funky Chicken says
With or without Jeff Teague, preventing another career night from Devin Harris would be nice. The Pacers will be extremely tough, so a win tonight is very important.
According to some reports from Mike Trudell, Jeff Teague will be out tonight and there’s also a report of Josh Smith potentially out due to a knee sprain. If that’s the case, I like our chances of going up 1.5 games on Utah, as long as OKC does what they should do.
Darius, let’s hope this game preview leads to a similar post-game follow up of the recent Atlanta Hawks vs. Lakers game.
Kobe Alerts Rule! I marvel at his basketball acumen and ability to persevere against the vitriol that has been prevalent since he stepped on the floor at the age of 17, clearly emulating Michael Jordan.
I believe that Earl Clark “Duke of Earl” will return close to his first 20 game stats when Pau returns and he no longer has to play the center position. The Lakers can ill afford to remove the one player from their lineup that has young legs and athleticism. Clark has been a bright prospect this season and is fizzling due to extended playing time for the first time in his NBA career. Next year he should find a more consistent stride due to having learned how to pace himself and take care of his body for the pounding during an NBA season as a starter with the Lakers, no less.
Darius Soriano says
The post has been updated with the news that Jeff Teague and Josh Smith are both out tonight. Obviously, this helps the Lakers.
There was a time during the season where we couldnt catch any break. Sure looks likes the basketball gods are on our side right now.
Lets not mess with the good “joojoo” flowing.
Funky Chicken says
If those guys are really both out of tonight’s game, perhaps the Lakers’ luck really is turning. The last week or so has been critical for the playoff push, and the Lakers schedule has been filled with cream puffs and two good opponents (Chicago & Atlanta) that have been ravaged by injury. Coupled with the Jazz hitting the wall and having a tough matchup tonight, it’s feeling a little like Christmas in March. Of course, with this year’s challenges, I’ll hold off on that sentiment a bit longer….
Bottom Line: A reeling Hawks team, although at home, but missing 2 key starters who, imo, are their 2nd and 3rd best players .. Going up against a Lakers team who are playing, arguably, their best ball of the season and who recognizes that, with Utah playing at OKC tonight, there’s a good opportunity to gain a full game on the Jazz (as BigCitySid mentioned) with a victory in The A tonight .. This is a Must Have game for us. Can’t let an opportunity such as this pass us by.
Nash looks much more mobile, his knee looks much stronger.
Howard is getting his conditioning back!!!!!
Better defensive rotations and intensity are required. Additionally, the Lakers cannot stand on the perimeter and shoot 3pt shots. Ball and player movement should be a focus.
we need Gasol back. Earl clark at center is killing us. And we start off cold again…
Lakers lost 2 centers and haven’t picked one up. Six weeks since Pau got injured and we’re still playing Clark at center.
This is sone really bad basketball. Rec league?
Kyle Korver can do nothing, nothing but shoot and he can’t do it off the dribble, so how can the Lakers not defend him.
Okay, Korver can make a shot off the dribble against a mouse.
At this point of the season, Sacre should be able to give the Lakers 2-3 minutes a quarter while Howard is out with fouls.
This ref’ing is something awful so far this game. Lakers getting called for petty touch fouls and Hawks getting….well not getting called for anything.
Omg another horrid no call.
well that was rubbish
Kobe in a terrible slump. Can’t make anything 2nd game in a row. Shots not even close. Could be tough game now.
Some sort of offensive/defensive stunt needs to be instituted so that the Lakers don’t fall behind by 10-15 points (or more) while waiting for Howard to return.
Fatigue has found Kobe after those out of this world games last week. That’s what happens when you rely on one man to be the anchor for the teams offensive efficiency, and as their defensive anchor against the best guards in the league.
Kobe’s shots look like he is shooting with 7 fingers, everything is off line. He came around last game, but something is clearly bothering him physically – taking a while to loosen up/warm up.
Darius Soriano says
Lakers need to start moving the ball a bit better to create better shots. Also, with Kobe missing out of isolations he needs to get the ball on the move towards the hoop. The defense needs to start paying attention to these other players too. Letting professional players shoot rhythm jumpers is a nice way to let them get going.
The 1St foul call of the game was an indication of how they game is going to be called against us ….very tricky tack
Team doesn’t look ready to play tonight.
Not sure why anyone would think Josh Smith being out against the Lakers would ever be an advantage. You already know the result: D league fill-ins x, y, and z have career nights, looking like all-stars in the process.
Last I checked Atlanta was not fast but they have had about 3 fast break dunks where no one on the Lakers ran back.
It’s stuff like this that infuriates Laker fans – because its all effort. Frustrating when the team is rolling in #1or 2 spot (and at times apathetic), inexcusable when you are fighting for a playoff spot.
Darius Soriano says
Most NBA players were once the best player on their HS and College team. Most can hit open jumpers if given them repeatedly. The NBA is the most talented league in the world, so I’m “not very good” is pretty much a relative term.
Tired team and D’Antoni sticks with the regulars. Have to know when to give the players some rest. 3rd game in 4 days is vs Indiana. Losing the last 2 games wouldn’t be going in the right direction.
This may be one of the worst called Laker games I have seen in a long time. Game not even close to being called both ways.
Kobe is in a daze on both ends’ maybe he Should sit he is not right tonight. This looks like a blow out. Team looks terrible.
Did Metta just airball a layup by like 3 feet? Is that even possible?! Smh
The bad news.
This team is too old to play and win back to backs.
The good news.
No back to back in playoffs.
Really think MD should rest Kobe. Boy was that a stupid Clark foul.
Defense defense defense…MWP wideeeeeee open shots, gotta knock those down.
Playing as if, once they heard that J-Smoove and Teague were out, they decided to mail it in. Either that or once they got in last night, they took advantage of all of the extracurricular activities that nightlife in The A offers .. Gotta turn up the defensive intensity in the 2nd half and Kobe has to make his presence felt offensively.
Nash had some rhythm he should be more than a spectator tonight. Kobe’s struggling.
Honestly, I don’t even know what to say anymore about these refs, just awful. Dwight picks up #4 and didn’t even touch Horford, Kobe get clobbered and refs pretend like nothing happened.
Kobe has exploded and…apparently is pretty popular.
This crowd is cheering more loudly for him than Staples ever does.
Guess I’ll take that back. Kobe’s will won’t be denied.
Kobe turns on the switch. Just like that…Bang!
Ask and you shall receive ..
spectacular stuff – #24 never ceases to amaze
Kobeeeeeeeeeeeee! 19 3rd quarter point! My goodness. Now who’s doubting the Black Mamba again!?
Here comes Kobe.
Vino in the house, WOW
The ref Kobe is talking to right now is completely brain dead.
Anyone else feel sorry for the home fans in most of the away games? Always a bunch of Laker bandwagonners, as much as I like the team getting support it’s a bit ridiculous.
Kobe push the Vino cheat code, he got us in the game now its up to the others to step up too.
Horford doing his MWP’s impression. Give that dude a T.
Well Dimitri the Larkers are the marquee franchise of the league for a reason.
That should have been a foul on Howard and it turned into a Steve Blake 3. So turns the NBA…
Dwight definitely got away with one. I can’t blame ATL’s coach for freaking out.
Too funny, the only (non)call to go our way all night and Atlanta is acting like Tim Donaghy is ref’ing and has $ on the Lakers. Give me a break, you have more than benefitted from these awful referees.
Bah, should support your local team. As much as I dislike the nuggets at least you know who the home team is even though they have never been championship callibre. It’s about being loyal when times are tough.
Dwight has clearly gotten away with a couple of obvious fouls (the one earlier on Horford and this most recent one on Johnson). For the rest of the game, if he’s even near the scene, more than likely, he’ll be whistled for a foul.
3 after 3 after 3. Miss after miss after miss.
Waited about 1 minute too long to bring kobe back.
someone hit an open 3!!
Dwight was also whistled for 1 foul he definitely didn’t commit (didn’t touch the guy) and 2 very iffy ones (a so-called moving screen and a ticky tack touch foul).
Here is where MDA’s lousiness as a coach is evident. Harris is hot, he keeps Nash on him. Nuff said.
I hate how whenever we play there’s always 1 crap player we make look like an MVP. Today’s winner: Devin Harris.
This game went to hell when Meeks and Blake went crazy chucking 3s
Well, at least our games become entertaining after halftime.
Wow, Nash’s shooting tonight is awful. He is 4 of 14. Kobe at 10 of 27 is actually still shooting better.
Those two offensive rebounds by Blake and Meeks followed by 3pt shots early in the shot clock, doomed the Lakers. They are just not smart. Your team is leading by 4 you shoot the ball miss and get an offensive rebound, pull the ball back out and set up to run some good offense.
They repeatedly do the same things game after game with no repercussion for their actions.
Get Blake out of there he is killing the Lakers.
Coach Popavich said it best, a team that doesn’t play defense is not a good team. Thus, the Lakers dilemma!
Lil pau says
Wish Kobe would a set a screen for Nash rather than posting up right next to him and asking for the ball.
I wish our offense was more than kobe isos
Entire teams dog tired. B2b in effect.
RUN A PLAY!
Lakers have shot themselves in the foot so many times tonight I am shocked they can still stand. smh…in a playoff battle and no energy, no fire, no focus
Man, 2 easy shots rimmed out. What a luck. LMAO
Fern you’re right Meeks and Blake!
James, I only wish! We only have iso’s for Kobe and PnR for Dwight and Nash to score.
Kobe’s the only one that should be tired. Tired of carrying this team.
So sick of hearing about the back to backs. Every team in the league pulls them. The coach has to be smarter in b2b’s.
Ill try not to get angry we missed about 5 wide open treys and Kobe and MWP missed easy shots
Lil pau says
So many easy misses from Nash and MWP. Meanwhile, Kobe jackin’
39 points last game for a player the next game he’s an afterthought on offense.
Speaking of lack of focus, Dwight just let Johnson get position for hat board.
Joe you might be shocked if you saw Nash numbers on back to backs.
Kobe shooting them out of it. Clearly is beat and this old team of Kobe, Nash, Metta and Jamison can not compete in back to backs they become bad in the 4th quarter.
Put that on the front office not the players.
Consolation: OKC is destroying Utah right now.
Tough tough misses down the stretch
@Ken – I think MDA could TRY and play other guys on nights like this and see if someone gives us a boost or gets hot. Duhon has had some good games, ditto Morris and Ebanks. I understand not playing them when we are playing decent – but no one has played well tonight, worth a shot.
Phil used to do that. Sometimes it pays off.
Metta is such a liability on offense. Not being able to space the floor on offense when he plays his 40 minutes a night kills the teams offense.
Joe M says
Kobe just could not come up big tonight, missing everything down the stretch, perhaps a little tired. Gameover, on to the next one.
Don’t even say Kobe’s NAME! Don’t talk about him shooting them out of it or jackin! The game was over in the 3rd quarter if not for Kobe.
They walked under Kobe while he was in the air…that is a foul!
I can’t stand when the rest of the team starts playing with energy in the last 40 seconds of a game!
This loss is clearly on the Coach! So sorry, I don’t talk about him after every game but when Clark went down he went to a short Meeks!
Gotta put this loss mostly on Kobe tonight. He has shot terribly. And, as I type that, he drains a ridiculous 3! Wow!
I say it again that stretch with the Lakers up 4 and Meeks and Blake missing 3 straight three pointers in the first 2 seconds of the shot clock kill the Lakers, never recovered after that.Painful painful loss with Indiana looming, not a good situation.
Dahnty Jones just committed one of the most dangerous fouls in the NBA, walking under a jump shooter and taking up their landing area and caused Kobe to role his ankle – no call.
The refs are not gonna call that foul like that at the end of the game, but Kobe got fouled. The dude walked right under him and he rolled his ankle because of it.
Funky Chicken says
This Laker team will tease us a few more times, but they are, a best, ultimately no more than first round fodder.
That was a foul, even at the end of the game that kind of foul needs to be called
@Kenoak I agree not an uncommon no call. Still, it behoves these refs to call actual fouls, whenever they occur, especially when they old cause an injury, rather than these b.s. touch fouls.
Dahntay Jones is forever a scumbag in my eyes for that trip on Kobe in the 09 playoffs
Refs have always sucked, especially this season. But the lakers just have no offense in the 4th quarter except for kobe. Can’t expect kobe to make miracles every game.
defense is ok though
Hey without Kobe in the 3rd, this game would be over.
Dwight got in foul trouble early and Jazz is losing in OKC.
@James – yeah, that was somehow not a flagrant foul then either. Dahnty and his vastly overrated D has barely kept him in the NBA though, so good on him.
Those shots that rimmed out by Kobe and MWP were devastating
James: mid air push in the back too.
Metta and Clark are not fits for the style of play the team is playing. D’Antoni has to use them some other way. Them not being consistent shooters is basically limiting Lakers to 3 on 5 on offense.
good game, hope kb stays right, maybe pau will give us a boost upon return, that catch and shoot was unexpected; props to mda
Dwight comes closest to being blameless for this loss, played fine for not getting the ball much. MWP shot too much, missed a lot late, but played great D. Kobe, good 3rd, terrible 1,2 and 4th. Everyone else was terrible tonight.
Lakers really need Pau back so they have someone else to give the ball to when Dwight and Kobe are out.
Dwight has his best game of the season the next game there’s no emphasis to get him the ball. D’Antoni standing on the sideline with his arms crosses not calling plays late is also a cause for concern. Last handful of games have been Kobe iso’s late. No real sets are run unless it’s coming out of a timeout.
That quick turn around shot was not designed by D’Antoni. That was pure Kobe Bean Bryant! If D’Antoni could draw up plays like that then why doesn’t he do that to get his beloved Nash going?
Too many 3’s have been a staple for this team due to the coaches offensive scheme. They can’t shoot!
No defensive effort for any extended time. The Lakers have not even started playing 1/2 game of defense. They are standing still.
Too many missed layups right at the rim by Howard, Nash and MWP are why the game was lost. Look at Nash and MWP’s shooting percentage. Kobe’s percentage was down also, but they were passing the ball to Kobe and waiting for him to carry them, as usual.
Lakers unable to comeback and get the win against the undermanned Hawks . They were unable to find any rhythm once Howard picked up his 2 early fouls and Kobe out of sync the whole game. Lakers had their chances but could not close, so no coffee for them tonight. Hope Kobe is okay and ready to go against the Pacers. Lakers really need to win that game. Just too much Kobe iso in the 4th quarter.
Boy the MDA bashing came back quick it took only one game. This was on the players sorry, thise rimmed out shots and these stupid missed 3s by meeks and blake did them in.
its a good thing utah is getting schooled by okc right now. And dahntay jones pulled a bruce bowen move going underneath the shooter..should of been a foul but refs never call those.
I agree those Meeks and Blake 3’s were awful, it’s too close to the playoff s to make dumb decisions like that. D was bad again until we clamped down but late in the 4th, Kobe lost it for us. Too many misses and turnovers. I was hoping he would go for the win with a 3 because he was dog tired. Indiana game scares me because our lack of front court depth.
Bad loss. Never mind the fact that the Jazz are getting smashed in OKC. We had the perfect opportunity to gain a full game on them and blew it. This game was lost in the 1st half, when we came out with no sense of urgency. You would think, knowing that there was a high probability of Utah losing, that they would come out and put their stamp on this game early. The word Tired can’t be used as an excuse because as we all know, the Hawks, who were down 2 starters tonight, lost last night in Miami. Would have liked to see Dwight get more opportunities tonight. To make matters worse, both Kobe and Clark got nicked up. Terrible loss and I hope that it doesn’t come back to bite us in the you know what.
Harvey M says
Dwight was great, and very dominant in his minutes, but really I think they lost the game with the 2 quick fouls he took in the first. They started the game with good defensive energy, which just disappeared when he was subbed out, and didn’t re-emerge in the 2nd quarter, as Dwight was protecting against taking a third foul, and laying off defensively. Had he not taken the first 2 early fouls, I think the Lakers would have walked out of the first half with the lead, and we would have been looking at a whole different game.
Harvey M says
we only need a few bad possessions for the Dantoni bashing to re-emerge.
My bro-in-law spent some time with the Clippers at a couple of dinners for work recently. He asked them which city had the worst fans + arena. Consensus was Atlanta.
The Clark and Metta combo has run it’s course time to insert Jamison. Clark hasn’t been cutting and hasn’t been effective. Jamison is a better cutter and shooter the choice is easy. It was fun while it lasted.
Now Kobe with server ankle sprain and out “indefinitely”.
Worthy hit it on the head! Coach D’Antoni needs to make calls so that Kobe doesn’t have to be heroic every night to win the game.
I’m sorry but when your team comes out game after game with low energy at the start of the game…that is the coach. Either he’s not impressing upon them the importance of running his sets, or they are not listening to him, it’s one or the other. But clearly a coach issue.
After every loss they all say, we have to come out with more energy and sense of urgency. It can’t get much more urgent than 1/2 game out of missing the playoffs.
Funky Chicken says
The Lakers are like a football team that plays its best ball in the 2 minute drill. It’s nice to have the ability to freelance and come from behind, but it has never been and never will be a recipe for sustained success.
Criticize the MDA bashers if you must, but his team looked totally lost, again, and with the exception of the Bulls game, have resorted to unstructured Kobe-driven greatness to string together recent wins. Part of a coaches job is to get a team ready to play, and the Lakers routinely come out flat.
Is there a chance Kobe will be ready to go Friday?