So this nightmare is over. We cried. We complained. We couldn’t sleep. We couldn’t eat. We even stopped feeling. What? That was only me? In any case, the Lakers have finally won a game after a nine-game losing streak as they beat the Hawks, 132-113.
It didn’t start out very well. L.A. was once again down early as the Hawks got off to a 10-2 start. And I was nearly resigned to yet another Lakers L.
This didn’t happen. The Lakers realized that the Hawks were 10-28 for a reason. They closed the gap with a couple of three-pointers as we saw a lot of good energy from Los Angeles on both sides. It carried over to the second quarter as a combination of Lakers defense and ineptitude on offense by the Hawks allowed the home team to score 12 straight points. The Lakers kept running (and running… and running…) and went on an overall 25-3 run. For that fleeting period, it was like we were watching Showtime. Atlanta only made one out of their first 13 shots in the second period and couldn’t stop the Lakers in transition.
The Hawks took advantage of a dry spell as the Lakers got trigger-happy from beyond; ATL cut the deficit down to 14. L.A. built their lead to its biggest at 21 before the half ended on a 66-48 clip. The Lakers shot really well in the first half (.533 from the field, .471 from three, .833 from the line). I wanted to make sure I wasn’t dreaming or anything.
There was no way the Lakers were going to blow this, right? Dennis Schroder finally got some help in the third as Kent Bazemore caught fire. But the Lakers didn’t stop kicking the Hawks while they’re down. Brandon Ingram continued to be aggressive on all areas of the court. He was making the right pass, making the right rotation on defense, and making all of his shots inside and outside. Ingram countered Bazemore’s 12 third quarter points with 12 of his own. The third period ended with a 96-80 Laker lead.
The lead was a bit precarious early in the fourth as the Hawks cut the lead down to 13. But a quick 6-0 run punctuated by a Lonzo Ball jam put that scare away. We saw more good Laker plays on both sides. The help defense continued to be crisp. Pick-and-roll action, read-and-react plays, and off-ball action continued to be positive in the fourth. The lead seemingly kept growing endlessly. Eventually, the Lakers came away with their first home win in 47 days.
The effort and body language on both sides of the ball looked completely different on Sunday than what we saw in the last few games (13 STEALS tonight!). The Lakers were at their best on transition; they scored 42 fast break points compared to the Hawks’ 15 (28-0 at halftime!)! L.A. also had 32 assists and outboarded ATL, 49-37. The Lakers shot really well (just under 56 percent) in all facets (20/25, .800, from the line and .444 from three!)
We also got good balance in terms of scoring. The Lakers had EIGHT players in double figures (led by Brandon Ingram with 20 points on seven shots!). Ingram had a second consecutive good game; his efforts on both offense and defense has been very much appreciated. Brook Lopez did well on defending the rim (two blocks early set the tone). Julius Randle (15 points, 9 rebs) continued to be a bull inside. Lonzo Ball’s aggressiveness behind the arc was very notable (13-10-6 line!). Kyle Kuzma bounced back with a nice game (14 points, 6 rebs). And Jordan Clarkson (18 points, 7/10 FG) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (14 points, 5/8 FG) made shots; something as simple as that can change an entire game. We should also give a shoutout to Larry Nance, Jr. for battling flu-like symptoms while also getting 13 points and 8 boards. 11 of the 13 Lakers scored in this contest (Thomas Bryant and Ivica Zubac got into the game really late and didn’t score).
It’s easy to see why the “Spurs East” period of the Hawks feels so long ago; they’re just not a very talented team. Only three players are left from the squad that won 60 games in 2014-15 (Schroder, Bazemore, and Mike Muscala). Dennis Schroder (27 points) put his team on his shoulders but it simply wasn’t enough. Kent Bazemore and rookie John Collins were the only ones that exceeded double digits for the Hawks.
The Lakers have a chance to extend their really long winning streak of one on Tuesday as they face the Sacramento Kings in a nice flashback from that epic 2002 Playoffs showdown (okay, not really). Hopefully, they can keep that momentum going and start something good anew.
Also, it’s a really good thing the Lakers won. For now, the real life and professional basketball counterpart of this Coach Eric Taylor/Joe McCoy feud can be silenced for a bit.