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Sleepy Hawks performance lets Lakers cruise to victory

Atlanta Hawks v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Hawks ventured into Arena late Friday night looking to build upon a close win over the Sacramento Kings two days earlier. Instead, they barely competed in a wire-to-wire victory for the home Los Angeles Lakers, 130-114.

It was soon clear after tipoff that the Hawks were a step too slow and lacked the execution needed to match their opponent. The Lakers began the game aggressively, capitalizing on turnovers and running in transition. In the first quarter alone, Los Angeles had 10 fastbreak points and five points off of turnovers. Even more alarming was the ease in which the Lakers were able to blow by defenders and find easy shots in the lane, leading to 22 first quarter points in the paint.

The lead ballooned to 26 at one point in the second quarter before settling at a halftime margin of 21 points. Despite some renewed fight in the second half from Atlanta, the visitors would never cut the lead to less than 10 and were comfortably dispatched down the stretch.

LeBron James led the charge for the Lakers, finishing with 25 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds. Thomas Bryant added a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Russell Westbrook also managed a near triple-double off the bench with 18 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

Despite missing Anthony Davis, the Lakers had plenty of firepower to attack Atlanta’s sluggish perimeter defense. They found easy passes leading to shots in the paint and around the three-point arc all game long. The Lakers came into the contest shooting just 33.7% from deep, good for just 26th and one spot higher than the Hawks, but buried 16-of-35 (46%) of their attempts on the night.

After a quiet first half, Trae Young got going in the second half in a big way. He had 21 of his 32 total points and six of his nine total assists in the second 24 minute period. Still, it was too little too late, and the late game period lacked any drama as to who would ultimately come away with the win.

Possessions like these were all too common an occurrence, with one pass finding an open Laker at the rim. Completely losing track of Juan Toscano-Anderson in transition just can’t happen.

“Yeah it’s tough,” said head coach Nate McMillan about the slow start. “When you get yourself into a hole like that. Give up 70 points in the first half. Basically they just dominated the paint. We didn’t do a good job of keeping the ball in front of us, stopping the ball, protecting the paint.”

“We had some open shots in that first half,” McMillan continued. “Those shots didn’t fall for us. You’ve got to get back and change ends and stop the transition. We didn’t do that. I thought we dropped our heads a couple of times.”

“I thought [the Lakers] were aggressive defensively,” McMillan noted additionally. “Getting into our guards with the pressure. And we didn’t have a lot of ball movement. We were trying to attack the pressure one on one. I think we only had eight assists in the first half. And we needed to set screens to release some of that pressure. But their guards did a good job.”

“First, I feel we just try to wipe the emotions and the feelings we get from taking the loss away,” said John Collins about how the Hawks bounce back from this loss. “We’re going to go back in there and analyze what we need to do. Really just be a stronger team in the paint. Be more together. Figure out a way to start games with that juice to kick start us a little bit. All of us together, whoever it may be. Just lock into the game plan.”

The loss drops the Hawks to 18-21. Atlanta will looks to quickly move past this disappointment and bounce back with a victory in the same arena Sunday night, where the Hawks meet the Los Angeles Clippers.