After going 2-1 in their three games last week, the Atlanta Hawks kicked off a four-game home stretch on Monday night with a hard-fought loss against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers 107-99.
The bad news for Atlanta entering this game is that De’Andre Hunter was not available due to a knee injury that he suffered against the Wizards on Friday. Not only does that mean that the Hawks were missing their second-leading scorer, but they were also missing their best wing defender. As a result of Hunter’s absence, Cam Reddish and Kevin Huerter received the nod as starters, with Reddish drawing a defensive matchup against LeBron James.
The Lakers jumped out to 9-2 lead in the first few minutes of the game, but Atlanta worked themselves back into the contest.
Overall, Reddish started out the game holding his own against one of the sport’s legends. James only scored six points in the first quarter, and not all of his buckets came against the second-year player.
Rajon Rondo drilled a deep three-pointer at the end of the first quarter to tie the game at 25 a piece, but James was fouled on a three-pointer of his own as the buzzer went off, and he knocked down all three of his free-throw attempts.
The Lakers led the hawks 28-25 after one quarter of action.
The Hawks replicated what the Lakers did to start the game. They began the second quarter on a 9-2 run, taking the lead. The home team led by as many as four points in the second period.
Clint Capela was a non-factor in the second quarter after picking up three quick fouls. Surprisingly, the Hawks out-rebounded the Lakers 18-16 in the first half, even with Capela spending time on the bench.
John Collins was the first player of the game to reach double figures, happening midway through the second quarter. He was the only Hawks with at least 10 points in the first half and led all scorers with 13 points at halftime. Trae Young had six assists at halftime, which doubled what anybody else had produced at that juncture.
A slew of Hawks defenders managed to hold James to six points on four shots in the first half. The biggest issue for the Hawks in the first two quarters was that they were outscored 30-18 in the paint, which is a big reason why the Lakers secured a 50-46 halftime lead.
The third quarter is where the energy really started to pickup for both teams as baskets were being traded back-and-forth. The Lakers got out and increased their lead a little bit, but again, the Hawks worked their way back.
Defensively, Atlanta had no answer for Anthony Davis in the third period. He racked up 10 points in the third quarter at great efficiency.
Young and Capela were a great tandem in the third quarter. Both of them reached a double-double in the period, and Young connected with Capela a couple of times. Young led the hawks with 18 points after three quarters, and Collins was a close second with 17 points of his own.
The Hawks led by as much as six points, but a late Lakers surge shrunk the Hawks third quarter lead to 76-75.
The Lakers jumped out onto an 11-0 run to get the fourth quarter and maintained a steady lead for the majority of the period, but Atlanta kept fighting their way back into the game.
Young made a deep three-pointer to make it a one-point game with 1:40 left in the game, but after that, the Hawks made too many mistakes as the Lakers continued to put the ball in the basket.
The game was all but over when James nailed a transition layup with 48.3 seconds left. Atlanta was in panic mode following that sequence.
The Hawks were led by the trio of Young, Capela and Collins. Young rounded out the night with 25 points and 16 assists, Capela finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds and Collins notched 22 points and seven boards.
This was a great effort against a superior team that is coming off of an NBA championship. The Hawks’ level of play was also encouraging considering they were without Hunter, who certainly could have made a difference in this game on both ends. There was not much in the way of offensive production from the wings in this game.
Atlanta’s four-game home stretch continues on Wednesday with a matchup against the Dallas Mavericks. All eyes will be on Young and Luka Doncic.