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L.A. Lakers 101, Atlanta Hawks 87: Another Game, Another Loss

I am very tempted to point out that I thought the Hawks played better in this game than they did on Sunday against New York. They appeared, at least on the surface, to share the ball and compete for all but a small stretch in the third quarter. If the team hadn't been struggling the way it has over the last week or so, you could potentially chalk this loss up to simply playing a superior opponent. There is something to be learned from the Lakers. They have a size advantage over nearly every team in the NBA and they look to exploit it at every opportunity. This is a team that also has Kobe Bryant as in some cases a fall back option in case those Laker bigs have an off night.

I will credit Larry Drew for one thing and that is that he is trying different things to get his team out of this rut. I thought at first glance that it was peculiar to start the regular lineup against the Lakers but the thinking was that Atlanta wanted to push the ball. The big lineup didn't have any success in Los Angeles so why not give it a try? In theory it is a great plan, the way Atlanta executed it also shows a big flaw. The Hawks had a 20-5 advantage in fast break points but that wasn't enough to offset the 44-20 advantage that the Lakers had in points in the paint.

It probably hasn't been harped on enough but shot selection is probably every bit as big a problem with this Atlanta team than Mike Bibby ever was defensively. The Hawks are simply living and dying on the perimeter. In his post game blog entry, Ken Sugiura offers up an interesting insight.

The Hawks shot 7 of 12 on fast-break opportunities, which doesn’t strike me as very efficient.

I don't have the numbers in front of me but I would be willing to bet that those most of those five misses came from three-point range. While watching the game last night it dawned on me that Atlanta doesn't sprint the floor for lay ups, they rather sprint the floor for three-point shots. I counted several trips with Josh Smith or Al Horford leading the break and kicking out to Joe Johnson or Jamal Crawford for sometimes wild three-point attempts. So in my estimation pushing the ball isn't really the answer if it is going to produce the same type of shot that the Hawks get in the half court.

The Lakers are a hard team to attack. They are a championship caliber team with not many weaknesses. It is fair to suggest that the Hawks wouldn't have enjoyed much success attacking them inside but this goes beyond this one game. This team has become over reliant on the perimeter. As Jason pointed out in the initial reaction, even the arguably most efficient scorer Al Horford has transformed into a face the basket jump shooter. Is this a product of the motion offense? I don't necessarily think so because it hasn't been this lopsided the entire season. I have a hard time believing that coach Drew and his staff are preaching for the team to take first available jump shot each and every trip down the floor. However, if the Hawks players are truly searching for answers then they need look no further than their own self inflicting damage.