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Lakers vs. Hawks Preview: Two teams that desperately need wins

This game is going to be an important one for both the Lakers and Hawks as they scratch and claw for playoff positioning.

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Atlanta Hawks v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The Lakers will wrap up their longest road trip of the season in Atlanta on Sunday, where they’ll take on the Hawks. Both L.A. (24-26) and Atlanta (23-25) are below .500, and are currently out of the playoff (not play-in) picture in their respective conference.

So, in short, this game is going to be an important one for both teams as they look to climb back up the standings.

The Lakers, who are currently on a two game losing streak, really have to find a way to start winning games. The reason why they built a “superteam” in the first place is to more easily survive injury absences like the ones they’ve faced all year, but that clearly hasn’t been the case so far, 50 games into the season.

Whether it’s because of those aforementioned injuries, the changing rotations as a result, or having no choice but to play players who probably don’t belong in the league anymore due to the flawed roster assembled this summer, the point is L.A. is not winning games consistently right now — and that’s a significant problem on top of the many others L.A. is dealing with. The way things have gone, the Lakers look more set to have to fight for a playoff spot late in the season against teams that are doing the same, rather than getting a chance to rest their players for the postseason.

That makes them much like the Hawks, who are currently vying to make it past the play-in tournament. Atlanta now looks far better than they did when they first played the Lakers three weeks ago. The Hawks have won six out of their last eight games, and currently have the longest winning streak in the Eastern Conference. It’s unfortunate that the purple and gold will face a team that’s riding momentum when they can’t afford a three-game losing streak, but their own margin for error has become way too thin midway through the season because they lost a bunch of winnable games early in the year.

These latest bumps and bruises have also come at the wrong time, especially since LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook have only played 14 (!!) out of 50 games together, and need to get as many reps as they can. Their worst nightmare is having to activate playoff-mode now just to win games and make the postseason instead of getting the chance to further tinker with their rotations.

But that’s where the Lakers are at. They can start the process of writing the ship on Sunday by winning the battle between two teams that are desperate for wins.

Notes and updates

  • Head coach Frank Vogel mentioned that he hoped two have both his superstars back in the lineup on Sunday, but on Saturday, the Lakers ruled out James on their injury report with his ongoing knee soreness, and listed Davis as questionable to play with his ongoing wrist issue.
  • Malik Monk, however was upgraded to probable (left groin soreness), while Westbrook is also probable with the same right knee soreness he played through on Friday.
  • The Hawks are 5-2 since trading forward Cam Reddish, who was linked to the Lakers just a couple of weeks ago. It seems like Atlanta’s second unit has found its groove since Reddish’s departure. This is something the Lakers might want to take note off.
  • Like their first meeting, expect the Hawks to run a whole lot of pick-and-roll actions on Sunday. They’re second in the league in pick-and-roll frequency, and successfully score 40.3% when they run this play. The Lakers should once again keep in mind that this team loves to throw lobs with their ball handlers and big men.

Set your alarms for this one, because the Lakers and Hawks will tip off by 10:00 a.m. PT on Sunday. The game will be televised on Spectrum SportsNet.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani.