On Sunday night the Lakers hosted the Atlanta Hawks as they inch closer and closer to the playoffs. L.A. came into the game at 29-30 and was looking to reach the .500 mark for the first time since December 28th of last year. Entering the game, the Lakers trailed the Houston Rockets by three games for the eighth seed. The task tonight would not be easy as the Hawks came into the game with a 33-24 record and both teams entered the game having won four of their last five. The Lakers also looked to gain momentum before a tough game at Oklahoma City on Tuesday.
The Lakers started with Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Earl Clark, and Dwight Howard. As the two teams traded buckets to start the game, seven straight Laker points opened up the first lead for L.A. Steve Nash got off to an especially strong start with six quick points on three field goals. By the time the Lakers opened up a 18-8 lead, every starter had scored and Atlanta was forced to call a timeout. Dwight Howard was playing especially hard once again as he brought energy on both ends of the floor.
With just five minutes to go, Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison entered the game and looked to reel of another excellent performance from the bench. Meeks and Jamison had combined for 46 in the latest win over the Timberwolves. Jamison made his first shot of the game with a three pointer at the four minute mark to give the Lakers an eleven point lead. The only player who the Lakers had trouble defending was Al Horford, who got off to a good start of his own. The Lakers quickly got cold, as the Hawks cut it to a five point lead on a beautiful dunk from Josh Smith.
As both teams went small late in the quarter, the Lakers led a high scoring affair 30-26.
The Lakers had an eleven point lead at one point in the first quarter but quickly relinquished it with lousy defense. In the second quarter they looked to get back to the excellent ball movement that had opened the game. The Hawks regained the lead with the first eight points of the quarter as the offense was flat. The Lakers lacked energy and their frustration was capped off by a Dwight Howard technical foul after he picked up an offensive foul giving the Hawks gained a five point lead. A beautiful bank shot from Al Horford continued the 23-5 run for Atlanta. The Lakers finally scratched in the second quarter as Dwight Howard made a three point play off of a beautiful feed from Steve Blake. As Steve Nash returned, a Hawks turnover led to another layup for Howard. Two free throws from Jamison brought the Lakers back within one.
As the Lakers had both Steve Nash and Steve Blake in the game with Jodie Meeks, the Hawks took advantage of their mismatches. A long two pointer from Jamison put the Lakers back up by one, as the home team had responded with a run of their own. The two teams traded outside jumpers, as the Lakers had regained their offensive flow. Both teams missed several good looks before an alley-oop pass from Nash to Dwight for the dunk as the Lakers were back up by five. By the time Kobe returned, there were four minutes left and the Lakers had already accumulated eleven turnovers. A three from Jamison put the Lakers up six as he quickly had ten points and looked like his younger self.
At the half, the Lakers led a game of runs by a margin of 52 to 45.
As the team continues their playoff push, the Lakers absolutely had to lock down on defense in the second half to get a win. The containment of Al Horford and Josh Smith would certainly do the job. On offense, the Lakers merely needed to avoid offensive stagnation that had given the Hawks an 11-0 run in the second quarter. The quarter started off with a great fast break led by Nash and World Peace off of a steal by Metta. The Hawks, however, answered with two straight layups to cut the lead to five. Another steal from World Peace opened the Laker lead back up. While Josh Smith struggled for Atlanta, Al Horford picked up the slack and dissected the Laker defense.
A beautiful and slick move from Kobe that involved a left handed finish off the glass pushed the Laker lead to double figures for the first time since the third quarter as the Lakers led 60-49. The downside of the quarter, however, was World Peace’s fourth foul with just eight minutes to go. A three pointer by Nash catalyzed by an offensive rebound by Clark gave the Lakers their largest lead of the game at 14. The game was then blown open when Earl Clark received a beautiful feed from Nash for the dunk triggering a timeout from Atlanta.
The play of the game came on the next possession when Kobe threw a stunning alley oop to Dwight to approval of the crowd. The Hawks, however, responded when a Josh Smith three pointer cut the lead to eleven. The lead was cut to single digits almost immediately as the Hawks were in the middle of a run of their own. As the Lakers continued to turn it over, the Hawks were eventually down by only five before a three from Blake.
By the end of the third, the Lakers led by six after a buzzer beating three pointer from Kobe.
The Lakers entered the final period of this must win game having collapsed late in the third quarter. Devin Harris had single-handedly collapsed the Laker defense and brought his team back. The Lakers needed to regain energy in the fourth in order to win. The Hawks cut the lead to three with a three pointer from Korver before two straight offensive fouls on Dwight Howard. A step-back jumper from Devin Harris brought the Hawks within one before Kobe returned with no rest. Kyle Korver then tied the game at 80 with ten minutes to go before a jumper by Blake. Atlanta eventually took the lead with eight minutes to go after another turnover.
By the time Steve Nash and Earl Clark returned, the game was tied at 86 with six minutes to go. Atlanta regained a two point lead with a wide open dunk. A tough baseline fallaway from Kobe then tied the game before Horford got another lob. Kobe then tied the game at the line as both teams battled back and forth with just under four minutes to go. The Lakers trailed once again after a floater from Jeff Teague before they regained the lead on a three from MWP. The lead, however, was short lived as two free throws from Teague flipped the lead. The Lakers, however, had an answer with an incredible posterizing dunk by Kobe. Great defense from the Lakers forced a shot clock violation just over a minute to go.
The Lakers turned it right back over on a controversial play where Kobe was fouled. The Hawks then regained the lead with a beautiful floater with 40 seconds. Kobe then drew the foul with 33.5 seconds remaining and went to the line for two clutch free throws. After Kobe made both free throws Atlanta took a timeout. On the ensuing offensive possession, the Hawks got an easy dunk for Al Horford giving the Hawks a one point lead. Kobe then converted an athletic layup of his own to put the Lakers back up 99 to 98. The Hawks then had the ball for the last shot of the game with nine seconds. The Hawks turned it over and the Lakers got a much needed win.
When it was all over, the Lakers survived a thriller 99 to 98.