Despite a disappointing season and record, the Los Angeles Lakers have been generally playing well since the All-Star break. That all changed Thursday night as the New York Knicks came to Staples Center and controlled the game on their way to handing the Lakers another loss.
The Lakers shifted their focus towards the Eastern Conference leading Atlanta Hawks for a Sunday night matchup. With a record of 51-14, the Hawks held a comfortable lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference standings. As such, the Hawks decided to give three of their regular starters some rest with Jeff Teague, DeMarre Carroll, and Paul Millsap getting the night off.
Sunday marked the second time the two teams met. When the Lakers traveled to Atlanta in November, the team came away with one of their few wins after getting off to strong start. Head coach Byron Scott went with a starting lineup of Jordan Clarkson, Wayne Ellington, Wesley Johnson, Jordan Hill, and Tarik Black to begin the game.
Ellington got the Lakers on the board early by hitting a three on the first possession. After a basket from Clarkson and a free throw by Johnson, the Lakers jumped out to an early 6-3 lead before Al Horford put the Hawks on top with two baskets of his own. The Lakers struggled to score as the Hawks continued to add to their lead. A Hill sweeping hook brought an end to an 8-0 Hawks run and brought the score to 11-8 midway through the quarter. The Lakers sent out their first set of substitutions and brought in Carlos Boozer and Jeremy Lin. However, the Hawks continued to have no problems scoring by getting back-to-back threes from Shelvin Mack. The lead grew to 15 before Jabari Brown scored on a transition layup with just over a minute left. Scores from Black and Lin cut into the deficit as the Lakers ended the quarter down 23-14.
The Lakers had the quarter’s opening possession while the Hawks were called for illegal defense. Lin hit the free throw as Mack scored on the other end after a Ryan Kelly turnover. Kelly made up for it by getting a layup while Brown continued his strong play by getting a steal and finishing a pass from Carlos Boozer with a dunk. After Boozer converted on one of two free throws, the Lakers only trailed by five. A Kelly three brought them within two. Brown tied the game at 25 with a basket off the glass. The Lakers had a chance to take the lead but Davis missed the basket. Former Laker Kent Bazemore put the Hawks up by three after getting a layup to fall after drawing a foul on Clarkson. After a Horford basket gave the Hawks a five point lead, the two teams traded baskets including a three-point play by Black that answered a Dennis Schroder triple. Clarkson ended the half by getting a circus layup to fall as the Lakers entered the break trailing by three by a score of 38-14.
Clarkson got the first Laker basket of the quarter after following a Johnson miss with a putback dunk.The Hawks hit their five field goal attempts before Horford missed a seven footer. The Lakers were able to stay close after Johnson, Black, and Hill all connected on their shots. An Ellington three brought the Lakers within four while a Johnson layup cut the deficit to two. After forcing the Hawks into a shot clock violation, Ellington missed a game tying jumper as Schroder converted on his on the other end as the Hawks enjoyed a 55-51 midway through the quarter. During a timeout, the officials determined Clarkson’s opening dunk came after the shot clock ran down and took away the points. Hill got them back by scoring in the paint after the Lakers missed four in a row. Brown continued his perfect shooting and hit his fourth field goal of the night with a three keeping the Lakers within five. Boozer got his first shot to fall with two minutes left but as the quarter ended, the Lakers found themselves down by double digits, 68-58.
By the time the Lakers got their first basket, they surrendered four points to the Hawks off an Elton Brand layup and a pair of John Jenkins free throws. Lin’s layup brought the score to 72-60, but the Hawks added to their lead as Jenkins got a layup and converted a mid-range jumper. With the Lakers down by 16, Ed Davis was able to convert on a three-point play after drawing a foul on Jenkins. Boozer answered a Mike Muscala layup with a jump shot and a pair of Schroder free throws with two of his own. As the midway mark passed, the Lakers were still down 13 when Mack and Kelly exchanged triples. The Lakers brought the deficit to single digits following baskets from Boozer and Clarkson. After Clarkson found Davis the next time down the court, the Hawks called a timeout with the score at 83-76 and just under four minutes left. Boozer hit two jumpers to make it a four point game. After Horford only converted on one free throw, Johnson buried a corner three to bring the Lakers within two with 30 seconds remaining in the game. Following a timeout, the Lakers couldn’t stop Schroder from giving the Hawks a four point. The Lakers couldn’t overcome the deficit while resorting to free throws as they ultimately fell by a score of 91-86.
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