In all their losses thus far, the Lakers found themselves trying to dig out of a hole. In Atlanta, they got down by 11 in the first half.
This time around, the comeback was complete as they overwhelmed the Hawks, 123-116.
The theme thus far for the Lakers this season is that they hang around. If you dump a double-digit lead on them, they’re going to keep coming back. I would like them to break out of that habit as the season goes on but what I want them to continue is that FIGHTING SPIRIT I had mentioned in the past. They seem to have that sense of urgency in the second half and it was too much for the Hawks, who lost their first game of the season.
Initially, they had a hard time stopping Dwight Howard. He did finish with 31 points and 11 boards and got some of the remaining Laker bigs (remember that Timofey Mozgov is hurt) in foul trouble (Ivica Zubac picked up four fouls in his first-ever NBA half). They also had a difficult time subduing Tim Hardaway, Jr. He had 26 points and had a five-point play late in the third that potentially swung the momentum of the game (2/3 FTs, offensive board, then a three-pointer).
But the Lakers went bonkers in the fourth quarter. They went on a 14-2 run to take a seven-point lead. I had remarked on Twitter that Lou Williams looked nonchalant putting up shots in the first half but he looked the complete opposite in the fourth. Lou scored 16 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter and was a steady veteran presence for L.A. Sure, we were fearful of the Lakers blowing a lead late because of their youth. But they kept their poise and made the winning plays. Inside a minute left, Dennis Schroder’s lay-up got spiked by Julius Randle and that was followed by Nick Young’s game-clinching three (to put them up 7 with 17 seconds left) on an assist by D’Angelo Russell. The Lakers won their first game on the road.
Going into the game, the Lakers were averaging the most turnovers in the league. They had 10 in the first half and even committed another one 20 seconds into the third. But they settled down and only had four giveaways the rest of the game. The Hawks had 18 turnovers, which contributed heavily to their loss.
The Lakers had six guys in double figures. D’Angelo Russell had an impressive 23 points, 8 assists, and three blocks. Nick Young really played well on both ends once again (17 points, including the clutch three). Luol Deng missed three close-range shots in the fourth but, otherwise, he finished with a double-double (13 points and 10 rebounds). Larry Nance, Jr. continued to play with his unlimited energy (14 points) and Jordan Clarkson was hot fi-yah in the first half (finished with 16 points).
As for Ivica Zubac, he got off to a good start but it was obvious that the Hawks were picking on him from the start. They went to Dwight Howard early and often and, again, the ex-Laker had a great game. But the Lakers were able to keep Paul Millsap (10 points) and Kyle Korver (3 points) from getting it going. Schroder didn’t exactly stand out, either (11 points, 6 assists).
The Lakers are going home to face the deadly Golden State Warriors on Friday night. In the meantime, it is fantastic to see the Lakers get their first road win. Again, I don’t expect many wins but as long as they keep fighting, I’ll be happy with the progress of this rebuild.
Go enjoy the World Series, everyone.