The Atlanta Hawks took on the Los Angeles Lakers Saturday afternoon, looking for their eighth consecutive win to kick off an eight-game, west coast road trip. The Lakers are just the first challenge for Atlanta, on a journey that also features games against the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets and the San Antonio Spurs, all of whom are currently in position to make the Western Conference Playoffs.
This was set to be the biggest challenge for the Hawks in some time, as the Hawks beat the Miami Heat (without Jimmy Butler), Orlando Magic, Toronto Raptors (three starters down), Sacramento Kings, Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets (lost 18 straight games), and Oklahoma City Thunder over the course of their seven-game winning streak.
The Lakers came in on a hot streak of their own, winners of four straight games and six of their last eight. LeBron James has been the star of the show, to no one’s surprise, as Anthony Davis is still out injured.
James exited this one early in the second quarter, however, due to an apparent ankle injury. He had 10 points and four assists, and did not return.
LeBron rolled an ankle, stayed in the game, hit a 3, then exited to the locker room. pic.twitter.com/1GPl8dl7Jo— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) March 20, 2021
Atlanta took home the 99-94 win, as the Lakers struggled to get much of anything going following James’ exit.
John Collins had 10 points, five rebounds and two steals in the first quarter for the Atlanta as Hawks made their way to a 28-25 lead through the first 12 minutes of play.
Kevin Huerter poured in eight first-quarter points of his own.
The Hawks led 38-33 not long after James exited, but Los Angeles made a push to get back in front behind strong play from Alex Caruso, Kyle Kuzma, Talen Horton-Tucker, Dennis Schroder & Co.
It was tightly played from there, as the Lakers led 53-52 at halftime. Collins led all scorers with 18 points at the break, taking advantage of the void left inside due to the absences of Davis and Marc Gasol. Trae Young had four points and six assists in the opening two quarters. Clint Capela played just over 11 minutes in the opening half due to foul trouble. He played just 2:55 in the first quarter and picked up his third foul later in the second quarter.
Schroder and Wesley Matthews both had nine points for the Lakers, as James still led Los Angeles in scoring with 10 first-half points despite exiting early in the second quarter due to the injury.
The Lakers went scoreless in the first 6:08 of the third quarter as the Hawks went on a 12-0 run to take a 64-53 lead.
The Los Angeles attack continued to be anemic in the second half without James, as they scored just 25 points in the 18 minutes of play, leaving them down double-digits in the waning minutes.
JC doin' work on both ends‼️ pic.twitter.com/TxJEcRAwvd— Atlanta HaWWWWWWWks (@ATLHawks) March 20, 2021
Their defense gave them a puncher’s chance, as they cut it back to single digits inside the four minute mark. Montrezl Harrell got hot, and had a dunk to cut the deficit to seven with two minutes remaining. Danilo Gallinari answered with a three to make it 95-85, which was effectively the dagger. The margin got as slim as five momentarily inside the final minute, but Young was able to put things on ice after the Lakers were forced to intentionally foul with 25.9 seconds left.
Offensively, Atlanta did not have a ton going on, but Lakers struggles were so much that it didn’t matter. Collins was the most active and productive player on the court, totaling 27 points to go with a season-high 16 rebounds in the 99-94 win.
The Hawks feasted on the glass against the Lakers thin frontcourt, as Capela also had 16 boards to go with eight points and a block.
Young finished with 14 points and 11 assists, while Gallinari poured in 18 points off the bench.
Harrell led Los Angeles with 23 points and 11 rebounds, while Schroder had 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
The Hawks will play the Los Angeles Clippers from Staples Center Monday evening.