As good as it felt for the Lakers to finally get a win since Kobe’s return a couple of nights ago in Charlotte, it feels equally bad that they led for a good part of tonight’s game, only to fall apart in the end.
The Lakers were playing well to start, shooting 52% from the field in the first quarter, while only allowing the Hawks to shoot 41%. Three-point specialist, Kyle Korver was 0-4 from downtown for the first half, and after leading by as much as 10 points, the visitors went into halftime with a nice seven-point advantage.
The second-half effort, unfortunately, did not surpass nor equate that of the first two quarters. Atlanta got hot from behind the arc and the Lakers did little to abate their success. After getting outscored 67-46 in the final two quarters, the Hawks took the win, 114-100.
Jordan Hill – Hill has been due for a big game. It’s been some time since we’ve seen him put in this type of effort. He was a perfect 8-8 from the field and 5-6 from the freethrow line for his 21 points. Add to that nine rebounds, a block and zero turnovers. He took initiative, as we’ve seen from him before, near the rim, where he waited for missed shots to convert into offense rebounds resulting in points. He scored 13 of his point total and grabbed six of his nine boards in the first half. Had he duplicated his first-half efforts, the team would have looked a lot different in the second half.
Nick Young – Score. Score. Score. Young is the Lakers’ cash cow when it comes to points, because he can shoot from just about anywhere. Tonight’s efforts resulted in 23 points on 7-14 from the field, including 5-7 from behind the arc and a perfect 4-4 from the free throw line. Young was the only player on the team whose threeball was falling tonight and had the defensive effort of his team manage to transfer over to the third and fourth quarters, those 23 points wouldn’t have been produced in vain.
Xavier Henry – It’s been noted, often, that Henry is not a good player on the road; that his success hangs in the Staples Center rafters. Tonight, however, he was solid on the floor, finishing with 18 points on 6-14 from the field. Like Young, Henry is able to create his own shot, and moreover, is apt at driving to the hoop to score on circus-like attempts and drawing the foul to get to the free throw line, where he went a flawless 6-6.
First Half – The Lakers were solid on both ends of the floor in the first two quarters. Aside from going just 2-9 from three point land, they looked like they were headed for a win. They outrebounded the home team 28-17, beat them in points in the paint 28-20, and three players had already scored in double figures. They did a good job keeping Atlanta to just 3-11 from downtown and only five attempts at the charity stripe.
Second Half – …and then halftime was over. The Lakers lost this game in the third quarter, where they looked and played nothing like the team in the first half that led by 10 points. In the first 12 minutes following the break, the Laker defense did nothing short of dare Atlanta to shoot themselves out of their three point slump in the first half. The Hawks went 4-9 from downtown, outrebounded the Lakers 16-7, and forced four turnovers while committing none themselves. In the second half, the Lakers allowed the Hawks to shoot 52% from the field, 50% from downtown, and outrebound them 27-15. Atlanta beat their visitors 18-4 in second chance points and led by as much as 15 in the game. The Lakers had a nine-point lead some time in the final 24 minutes of the game, and couldn’t sustain the effort to extend their advantage.
Kobe Bryant – Bryant was 3-6 in the first half for his six points, in addition to three assists. Unlike the game against the Bobcats where he scored 21 points, tonight would have a different, and more disappointing ending. 4-14 from the field, 0-5 from three and he missed the one free throw attempt he got. He handed out three more dimes in the second half, but he also finished with five turnovers. Eight points – that’s all Bryant could muster tonight.
Pau Gasol – Following suit in unfortunate second halves was Gasol, who had an exceptionally active first half, scoring 11 points on 5-6 from the field, and grabbing nine rebounds in just under 16 minutes of playing time. His next 16 minutes, sadly, produced just five points on 2-3 from the field, and one rebound. ONE REBOUND…in 16 minutes. Gasol’s double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds
Jodie Meeks – Talk about slump! In the last three games, including tonight, Meeks is a combined 5-28 from the field. Citing Bryant’s return as a cause is easy to insinuate, if not for the 28 attempts that Meeks has gotten. Most of his shots are wide open too, which makes this all the more disappointing.
Shawne Williams – Except for one good game against the Pistons, where he scored 20 points on 7-13, Williams’ presence on the floor is always baffling. His minutes should be going to someone who is more effective, like Wesley Johnson. 13 minutes isn’t a lot, and it’s understandable since the roster is so depleted, but he needs to find a way to produce on a more consistent basis.
Aside from a Ryan Kelly sighting in the second half, nothing we saw from the Lakers tonight is surprising. They’ve done this to themselves a number of times this season – playing well enough for a portion of the game, and then letting up for no comprehensible reason. A .500 record may be good enough for a third seed in the Eastern Conference, but it’s barely good enough for 10th place in the West. The Lakers sit two slots further down, at 12th.