The Lakers took care of business Tuesday night, dispatching the lifeless Atlanta Hawks without appearing to drop a bead of sweat on the Staples Center court.
When they stopped playing down to the level of their competition, the Lakers flicked away the Hawks with remarkable ease en route to a 96-83 victory in their first game after the All-Star break.
No muss, no fuss.
Thanks for stopping by, fellas.
The league-leading Lakers (43-10) started their 30-game stretch drive by making it look easy against the Hawks (31-22), breaking open the game with an 18-5 run to start the second half.
They turned a 45-36 lead at halftime into a 63-41 advantage by midway through the third quarter. It was 85-60 entering the
"That's the way we wanted to start it with a win, by playing the right way," Lamar Odom said after leading the Lakers by scoring 15 points and grabbing 20 rebounds in almost 34 minutes, his fourth consecutive season high for rebounds.
Odom has 74 rebounds in his past fourgames, topping his previous best four-game stretch of 67, set in March2008. He had 19 in the Lakers' loss last week against Utah, 18 in the Lakers' win over Oklahoma City, and 17 in their victory over Cleveland.
"He's found his niche," Kobe Bryant said of Odom. "The key a lot of times on successful teams is to find what it is you do well to help the team, and now that he's found it, it's easy for him to focus on it.
preparing for games, he's not trying to figure out what he's going to do from night to night. He knows what's he's going to do, and he's been doing it."
Pau Gasol, fresh from his second career All-Star appearance on Sunday in Phoenix, had 12 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for his third career triple-double. His last triple-double was Jan. 24, 2007, while with Memphis against Utah.
And get this, he didn't play a second in the fourth quarter Tuesday.
Neither did Bryant, who had a season-low 10 points on 4-for-12 shooting. Bryant, whose previous low in 2008-09 was 11 points during a 117-97 rout of the Washington Wizards on Jan. 22, is averaging a team-leading 27.3 points.
"I felt the time off did the guys some good, because we came back with a lot of energy," Bryant said, referring to the All-Star break. "We had a high motor."
Joe Johnson led Atlanta with 14 points.
The Lakers outrebounded the Hawks by a staggering 67-39.
Imagine if Andrew Bynum, the Lakers' rapidly-developing 7-foot center, had been able to play and contribute to the rebounding disparity. But he sat out for the seventh consecutive game after tearing a right knee ligament Jan. 31.
"My time has come," Odom said. "My brother, my teammate (Bynum) went down with an injury, so, of course, I had to come through."
Now it's on to Oakland, where the Lakers face the Golden State Warriors tonight.
Presumably, the undersized Warriors (19-35) will give the Lakers more trouble than they faced from the pint-sized Hawks (31-22).
Then again, the Lakers are 2-0 so far this season against Golden State.
The Lakers warmed up for the Warriors by dominating the paint. After a sluggish start that led to a modest 45-36 lead at halftime, the Lakers seized control to start the third quarter. Odom started things with a hook shot in the opening seconds of the third.
Derek Fisher swished a jump shot, then Luke Walton made a runner in the paint and, after the Hawks called a timeout in an futile attempt to blunt the Lakers' momentum, Bryant hit a 3-pointer to make it 54-36.
Soon enough, the Lakers were rolling toward an easy victory.
"I mean, we played a quarter-and-a-half and then they hit us in the mouth and we shut it down," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "I mean, we were still in the game. You hold them to 45 points going in at half, then we come out in the third quarter and we were just flat. So flat (that) when they hit us, we never responded."