The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Atlanta Hawks with a final score of 99-98, and have reached the .500 mark on the season once again. It's been a bumpy road, and there are a handful of shameful victories, but a W is a W, and the Lakers are once again even for the 2012-2013 NBA season.
The Lakers looked to stake their claim early with an early lead, but the Hawks picked on Antawn Jamison and were able to push back against the Lakers and eventually pulled ahead to take the lead. With both Al Horford and Josh Smith taking advantage of mismatches when Jamison defended them, it was a game full of stretches for both teams, and the Lakers gave up a 16 point lead by the fourth quarter. Devin Harris went wild off the bench and had 16 points on 5 for 9 shooting on the night. Kyle Korver also chipped in off the bench with 16 points of his own.
Dwight Howard had a hard time getting his offensive game rolling as he missed a handful of post touches that were fruitless. His activity while rebounding was huge for the Lakers though, and he ended with 15 rebounds to go with his 11 points.
Kobe Bryant was aggressive with his shot early, but had a good mix of passing when the defense collapsed on him as well. He had a huge third quarter, which included a buzzer-beating three-point shot that ended with Bryant punching through the air and spewing venom from his mouth. An even bigger exclamation point on his night? A late one-handed dunk after breaking Smith down in isolation that nearly rattled my T.V. off of it's stand. Then, in true Kobe fashion, with the game on the line he drove through Horford and finished an absurd game-winning layup. Kobe worked his way to 34 points on 13 for 27 shooting, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.
It was an absolutely wild end to a game that was a roller coaster from the start.
The Hawks rode production from Josh Smith, who had 19 points and 7 rebounds on the night. He struggled from the free-throw line though, missing all six of his free-throws. Johan Petro was active on the glass for Atlanta and led the team with eight rebounds off the bench.
Steve Nash had a solid game from the field going 6 for 12 to total his 15 points, while also dropping 10 dimes. He carved up the Hawks defense with his ball-handling and passing, and had one awe-inducing bounce pass to a cutting Earl Clark in the third quarter. Off the bench, Steve Blake had eight points and five assists. Antawn Jamison had 10 points.
The Lakers were able to escape from a game that they nearly turned over as they coughed the ball up a total of 21 times.
This served as a big win for the Lakers who have been racing against their own follies from earlier in the season. While the Houston Rockets may have picked up a victory tonight, the Lakers kept pace and took care of their home court before heading out on the road for the next two games (their next game coming on Tuesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder).
The Great Scoreboard Watch
The Houston Rockets were the only team of the three teams ahead of the Lakers in the Western Conference standings that was in action tonight and they decimated the Dallas Mavericks, 136-103. One-hundred-thirty-six points in just four regulation quarters. Tomorrow the Utah Jazz play the Milwaukee Bucks in Milwaukee, and the Golden State Warriors play host to the Toronto Raptors.
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More on the Lakers:
- Andrew Bynum still affects the Lakers, even from 2,300 miles away
- Dwight Howard is setting strong screens and it's paying off
- Kobe's new nickname, Antawn the cockroach, D'Antoni pleased with the bench
- Kobe Bryant named NBA Western Conference Player of the Month
- Beast or Burden: The Lakers' bench unit is performing exceptionally well