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Hawks cruise to victory over Lakers, 138-122

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks entered this game against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers the healthiest they’ve been in a long time. With De’Andre Hunter returning from right knee inflammation, Atlanta could finally boast the nine or 10-deep rotation they envisioned when the season began.

The early portion of the game started in a choppy fashion, but this nice roll finish from Jalen Johnson was as smooth as they come.

The Hawks were slowly able to generate some offense, both in transition and in the halfcourt. At one point in the first quarter, the Hawks hit seven straight shots, most of them right at the rim from some nifty passing, to take a 20-18 lead.

De’Andre Hunter came off the bench midway through the first period for his first NBA minutes since December 20, a big lift to a weary team over the recent stretch of games.

He helped with the team defense along with some big steals from Dejounte Murray and Onyeka Okongwu to hold the Lakers offense at bay.

After one quarter, the Hawks led 36-29.

The scoreline remained pretty tight in the second quarter until the Hawks were able to hit some lob finishes and catch-and-shoot triples when the starters arrived around the six-minute mark.

You just cannot give Trae Young this much space, Los Angeles.

Atlanta also continued their swarming help defense, forcing the Lakers to settle for tougher and tougher shots. LA couldn’t get anything going from deep in the first half, registering just 2-for-13 (15%) shooting from three to that point.

At the halftime break, the Hawks maintained a 67-56 edge on the scoreboard. Four players — Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, Saddiq Bey and Bogdan Bogdanovic — had already hit double figures by this juncture.

The Hawks came out hot in the third quarter, reversing the usual trend, and hit the Lakers with a quick 6-0 run as Darvin Ham was forced to call a timeout. Atlanta continued to play well on both ends, turning defense into offense in a hurry.

The Hawks grabbed a 20-point lead at one point and largely weren’t tested in the first portion of the third quarter. But towards the end of the quarter, the Hawks hit a bit of a lull and the Lakers closed the deficit to a more manageable margin.

This Jalen Johnson flush did manage to invigorate the crowd.

After three quarters, the Hawks led the Lakers 103-88. Trae Young had tallied 24 points and 11 assists to this point already, including a perfect 7-for-7 shooting from behind the arc.

In the fourth quarter, however, Los Angeles picked Atlanta’s pockets a few times for some runout scores. In a jiffy, the lead was down to 10 for the first time since the second quarter. However, Dejounte Murray then took over, assisting Onyeka Okongwu for a corner three, then drilling three pull up jumpers to push the lead back out.

Here is the ‘OO’ triple from the Murray feed.

Atlanta was able to get almost any shot they wanted down the stretch until the bench unit came in with the white flag. In the end, the game was comfortable, and the Hawks came away with a 138-122 win.

Trae Young finished with 26 points and 13 assists. Dejounte Murray added 24 points and nine assists. Atlanta will now have two days off before facing Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and the Phoenix Suns at home on Friday evening.