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Lakers vs. Hawks Preview: Staying focused

LeBron James’s supporting cast got the job done against the Heat. Now, with LeBron hopefully back in the fold, can they get a victory against the Hawks to achieve the team’s longest winning streak of the season?

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Lakers vs Heat Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

About a month ago, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Milwaukee Bucks on the road in what was the team’s most shocking win up to that point. Although the quality of their opponent on Wednesday wasn’t as high as the Bucks, their victory over the Miami Heat was even more shocking. After all, this was without Anthony Davis, Lonnie Walker (who has missed three straight games due to injury), and LeBron James (out due to non-COVID illness).

They’ll now look to notch their first-ever four-game winning streak this season in a Friday night matchup against the Atlanta Hawks.

Here’s what to watch out for in that game.

Staying focused

The Lakers may be experiencing a sense of deja vu lately when looking at their recent schedule.

Including Friday’s game, the past eight games have seen the Lakers play only five opponents. Wednesday’s win vs. the Heat came after the Dec. 28 loss to the Heat in Miami. On Monday, the Lakers beat the Hornets after losing to them on Dec. 23. And if you look forward, the Lakers will end up playing the Mavericks on Jan. 12, only 18 days after the two teams’ Christmas Day game.

They’ll now play the Hawks only a week after beating them 130-121 in Atlanta.

Other than the pattern of just seeing the same team over and over, you can see another pattern in the pairs of games against the Heat and the Hornets.

The team who won the first matchup ended up losing the second matchup.

Of course, the positive thing for the Lakers is (and this really is the positive way to look at it) that they lost the first of those two pairs of games. This isn’t too surprising, as it’s been said many times in the NBA and all of sports that it’s very hard to beat the same team twice in a row. And when the two games are so close to each other in timing, the challenge becomes even harder given how motivated the team who lost the first one is.

Will the Lakers fall victim to this pattern on Friday vs. the Hawks? If their supporting cast brings the same focus and intensity, then there’s a good chance they won’t. That effort was spear-headed by the offense (32 points) and defense (neutralized Tyler Herro for most of the night) from Dennis Schröder. The Hawks have a similar (low) level of point-of-attack defense as the Heat, while Schröder’s efforts on Herro could just as easily be duplicated on Trae Young, lending credit to the idea that the Lakers could break this pattern.

Of course, a lion share of the Lakers’ chances at winning on Friday lies with the status of one LeBron James being able to overcome the sickness that caused him to miss the game against the Heat. He will be listed as probable for the game against the Hawks, however, that designation on the report is related to his left ankle soreness. He had the same designation heading into Wednesday’s game, so that “probable” label may not be as promising as it usually is.

However, one would hope that if his sickness was still pretty bad, he’d be listed as questionable due to it.

If he’s available and the Lakers don’t let the Hawks learn from past mistakes — in a crazy turn of events given AD’s absence — the Lakers will find themselves on their best run of the season.

Notes and Updates

  • There is a bit of a surprise on the Lakers’ injury report, as Austin Reaves is already deemed out due to a left hamstring strain. The sophomore guard has been a bit up-and-down as of late with his play, with fatigue possibly being the reason. That same fatigue may be related to this hamstring strain he now has.
  • Anthony Davis (right foot stress injury) will remain out, while Lonnie Walker (left knee tendonitis) will as well. Lonnie has missed the past three games, however, the first two absences were deemed to be from a tailbone contusion.
  • Troy Brown Jr missed the entire second half of Wednesday’s game vs. the Heat (left quad strain). He will be questionable while Damian Jones (right great toe soreness) will also be questionable. LeBron is probable, and so is Russell Westbrook (left foot soreness).
  • The Hawks will be without Clint Capela (right calf strain), Jarrett Culver (G-League play), and Tyrese Martin (G-League play). De’Andre Hunter will be active after missing last week’s game between these two teams.

The Lakers and Hawks will tip off at 7:30 p.m. PT. The game will be televised on Spectrum SportsNet.

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

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