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Lakers vs. Kings Preview: Can L.A. slow down Atlanta despite heavy legs?

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The Lakers will be battling themselves more than the Hawks on Sunday night.

Los Angeles Lakers v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Coming off of a comfortable win over the Sacramento Kings on Saturday, the Los Angeles Lakers will have to find their legs to keep up with an Atlanta Hawks team that likes to get out and run on Sunday night.

Make no mistake, the Hawks are a very bad basketball team, but they’re a young and scrappy team that likes to play really, really fast. In other words, they’re the type of team opponents hate to see on the second night of a back-to-back.

Through 12 games this season, the Atlanta Hawks are playing at the league’s fastest pace (107.58). While playing fast isn’t conducive to playing well, it is helpful in some areas like transition.

The Hawks are averaging 28.4 points in transition per game this season, which ranks No. 3 in the league, trailing only the Kings (32.8) and the Lakers (29.9). However, even with their success in transition, the Hawks are ranked second-to-last in offensive rating. Their defense is statistically better, but that’s not saying much.

So why should the Lakers be worried about the Hawks? Well, they shouldn’t be.

On paper, the Lakers are an objectively better team from top to bottom, but while they can be as good as any team on any given night, they can also be as bad as any team, including the Hawks.

If the Lakers want to avoid a monumental upset at home, they will have to be mindful of their opponent in spite of their poor record.

The Hawks might be bad, but they’re fearless. They’re so bad that they can afford to take risks that other teams can’t take.

For example, the Hawks are attempting the third-most 3-pointers in the league despite being ranked No. 21 in the league in 3-point percentage. Why? Because they can! The rest of their season is being devoted to finding a cool backcourt name for Trae Young and Zion Williamson.

Most nights those shots won’t fall, but they won’t hesitate to let them fly if they’re left unchecked. The Lakers have made serious strides with their perimeter defense over the past few games, but they’re far from unbreakable, especially if they’re fighting fatigue.

The Lakers can win this game. They should win this game. They could probably put LeBron James on the court with Isaac Bonga, Ivica Zubac, Moe Wagner and Luol Deng’s stretched salary and make it a close score.

But it’s these types of games that are the easiest to let slip away. Hopefully the Lakers don’t make that mistake.

The Lakers will take on the Hawks at 6:30 p.m. Pacific time on Spectrum Sportsnet. All stats are courtesy of stats.nba.com. You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.