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Hawks suffer close-fought loss to Lakers, 107-106

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So close.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Los Angeles Lakers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks began a brutal four-game road trip on Sunday evening with modest expectations, as many predicted a cruise-control victory for LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. While that kind of win did not take place, the Hawks were unable to pull off the upset at Staples Center, falling by a razor-thin margin by a final score of 107-106.

Atlanta opened the game in positive fashion, scoring the first nine points of the game and generating stops defensively. From there, however, the Lakers took control for the remainder of the period, overcoming turnover issues and outscoring the visitors by a 28-13 margin for the rest of the 12-minute opener.

Similarly, the Hawks opened the second period with a 10-3 run and, this time, Lloyd Pierce’s team was able to sustain that burst. Atlanta managed to force 15 turnovers from Los Angeles and, despite poor shooting from the Hawks, that was good enough to take a one-point lead into intermission.

While much of the third quarter was ugly for the Hawks, it ended in positive fashion. Atlanta trailed by as many as 15 points but, on the strength of two threes from Kent Bazemore and improved overall shooting, the Hawks were able to slash the margin to nine at the end of three, which proved pivotal in setting up a late charge.

Trae Young then exploded in the fourth quarter, keying an extended 27-14 run to give the Hawks a four-point lead with less than five minutes remaining.

The final blow on that run from the Hawks was a deep three that drew the attention of the entire basketball world.

After that eruption, however, the Lakers managed to close the gap and, ultimately, escaped with a win.

With the Hawks up two with less than two minutes to play, an apparent kicked ball went uncalled, leading to a bucket from the home team in transition and an untimely technical foul from Kent Bazemore in protest of the non-call. That sequence gave the Lakers a one-point edge with 1:34 remaining but, on cue, the Hawks zoomed ahead with yet another highlight play, as Young found Vince Carter.

With 19.9 seconds remaining and the Hawks leading by one point, LeBron James was fouled and the best player in the world missed both free throws. Unfortunately for Atlanta, Kyle Kuzma jumped into the mix with an offensive rebound and, after he missed a putback attempt, James gathered for a dunk to put Los Angeles back in front.

The Hawks still had the chance for a game-winner but, in the end, Young’s last-second effort was rejected by Lakers big man Tyson Chandler.

All told, it was a strong effort from the Hawks on the road, and it was led by a quartet of starters. Though the team’s starting lineup really struggled on Friday against Detroit, that was not the case here, as Young (20 points, 12 assists), Taurean Prince (23 points, seven rebounds) and Kent Bazemore (21 points, five steals, four rebounds) put together impressive performances. Though Alex Len was not as necessarily as dominant as the numbers indicate, the center added 17 points and 11 rebounds and Atlanta was able to give a superior team a run for its money for 48 minutes as a result.

The Hawks will be back in action on Tuesday against the Golden State Warriors. Stay tuned.