The Lakers continue to win games, this time beating the Hawks 122-101 on Sunday night. This was the Lakers 4th straight win overall and their 11th in 12 games. They now sit at 11-2 on the season, have the western conference’s best record, the league’s 9th ranked offense, the top ranked defense, and the best net rating in the entire association.
The Lakers, then, are good. How good, over the course of the full season, remains to be seen. I can say with confidence, however, that they are better than the version of the Hawks that showed up to Staples Center on Sunday.
Any preamble I offer about this game is just to skate on writing more words about this win than is necessary, honestly. The Lakers won by 21 points, had leads in the 30’s at certain points, and never trailed during the game. The Hawks found ways to cut into these leads at various points, but much like the win over the Warriors, the Lakers were never really threatened and seemed totally capable of scoring on two or three consecutive possessions to thwart any Atlanta run before things got too serious.
If there’s one big takeaway from this one it’s that LeBron remains on his revenge tour and it’s really fun to watch. The self-proclaimed #washedking had 33 points, 12 assists, and 7 rebounds in 33 minutes of game action. He was a team high +30 and if not for a lackluster 3rd period when the Hawks outscored the Lakers 36-27, LeBron easily could have been +40 on the night. The Lakers were simply unstoppable whenever LeBron was on the floor, mostly because LeBron was unstoppable.
Of his 33 points, 18 came from beyond the arc where he was 6-10 on the night. Whenever LeBron’s jumper is falling he’s a nightmare to guard and this game was no exception, not just because making these shot meant more driving opportunities, but because he was making the defense pay even when they looked to have him or the Lakers bottled up and in a position where getting a good shot would be harder. Instead, Bron could just bail them out with a long and/or last second 3 and the scoreboard just kept going up while the Hawks’ posture kept going down.
Beyond LeBron’s brilliance, there’s not much else to say about this game, honestly. The Hawks were overwhelmed early and were never able to get good footing in this one. The Lakers had several good performances across the roster, but none that really stood out as incredibly impactful. This truly was a “we’re better than you” game and, incrementally over the full 48 minutes, that showed up over and over again. It’s honestly a waste of time to try to make it seem like it was more than that. So, I won’t.
Onto some notes…
- While LeBron flourished, Anthony Davis did not — at least offensively. 5-14 shooting for 14 points, 5 assists, but also 4 turnovers. A fairly ho-hum game for AD on offense, one where he never really got a rhythm and one where his jumper was on-line, but just missing either short or long all night. I’m not going to worry about AD’s scoring, though, even if I thought this would be a good game for him to get it going. I do think the Lakers can do a better job of getting him touches on the move, but I’m also not sure if this is a priority for them beyond running the occasional P&R or looking for him in transition.
- Where Davis was impactful again, however, was on defense. Davis had 5 blocked shots in this one and several other challenges that either forced misses or turnovers because the guy about to get his shot blocked ended up forcing a last second pass. It’s easy to take what Davis does defensively for granted because he does it every game, but I’m going to try to ensure that doesn’t happen in my little corner of the internet. It’s simply so rare for a player his size to cover so much ground and utilize his length so well with the wonderful instincts and timing he possesses. Even some of the best defenders in the league cannot make some of the plays that he makes on a night to night basis and seeing it as often as we do should never feel normal.
- Kyle Kuzma had another good scoring night, scoring 17 points on 6-14 shooting, including 3-6 from distance. It’s that 3-point shooting that interests me most here and what I’m most happy to see, though. In Kuzma’s first 4 games this season he was abysmal from behind the arc, only making 3 of 23 shots for 13%. In his last 5 games however, he’s hit 15 of 32 from behind the arc, good for 46.9%. I don’t think he’s as good as his recent stretch nor as bad as how he started the year. But if he can settle in as a 38-39% shooter from deep, he’s going to be a problem for defenses geared up to stop LeBron and AD — particularly if he can do so at a good volume (5 to 7 attempts a night).
- I mentioned AD’s 5 blocks, but it should be noted that the Lakers had 14 as a team vs. Atlanta. That’s the most blocks the Lakers have had in a game since December 2002 when the Lakers had 16 against the Memphis Grizzlies.1In that game, Shaq had 7, Kobe and Horry had 3 each, Devean George had 2, and Slava Medvedenko had 1. After AD’s 5, Dwight had 3, JaVale and Danny Green each had 2, while LeBron and Kuz both had 1.
- I mentioned Kuzma’s accuracy from behind the arc, but the Lakers shot 15-35 from 3 as a team vs. the Hawks, which is part of a nice trend in recent games. Even when including the 11-37 effort on 3’s vs. the Kings, the Lakers have hit 38.5% of their 3’s during this 4 game winning streak and in 3 of those 4 games they’ve shot 40% or better. I’d still like to see the Lakers take more 3’s than they do, but if they can be closer to that 38.5% nightly for larger chunks of the season, I’ll happily take it.2For context, 38.5% on 3’s would rank 4th in the NBA for the year as of this writing. So, yes, give me more of that, please.
- Because it’s fun to find the most absurd lineup stat I can, even if it’s a small sample, I’ll close with this: In 6 minutes vs. the Hawks the lineup of Rondo, Caruso, Kuzma, LeBron, and Dwight had an Offensive Rating of 185.7 and a Defensive Rating 78.6. That’s a net rating of +107.1(!!!!). Haha. That actually only equates to a +15 in the boxscore in those 6 minutes, which is still fantastic, but doesn’t pop as much as a +107.1 net rating. Anyways.
That’s it for this game, ya’ll. See you again soon with more coverage.