Lakers – Hawks Running Diary

ArizaRead about the Lakers vs. Hawks games as it unfolds. As always, feel free to refresh your browser for live updates throughout the game … On second thought, I guess they wouldn’t technically be “live” updates since you have to press refresh. But whatever.

Previous Lakers – Hawks Running Diary/Postgame
Lakers 96, Hawks 83: Postgame
Lakers – Hawks Running Diary 2-17-2009

Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Sun Yue
Hawks: Speedy Claxton, Acie Law, Marvin Williams

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant*, Ariza, Odom and Gasol
Hawks: Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson, Maurice Evans, Josh Smith, Al Horford
*Bryant was listed as day-to-day after spraining his ankle on Friday night, but will start.

Phil Pregame
Jackson was quite brief in the first three minutes of his pre-game media session, which generally signifies not to continue asking him questions. He did, however, share a few theories about winning on the road (general stuff like not turning the ball over and experience), which is difficult in Atlanta particularly since the home crowd gets rather “vociferous,” according to Jackson. He added that the biggest difference in Kobe Bryant’s game this season is that Bryant is not at all concerned with his personal numbers, particularly scoring, and is comfortable with drawing double-teams (for example) and letting his teammates take over.

First Quarter
11:50 For once, an opposing team recognized (or reacted to) L.A.’s weak side alley-oop play: Horford tipped the pass, which went off Odom’s fingers and out of bounds. L.A., however, still struck first on two Gasol free throws a minute later after Smith missed a baseline jumper.

Odom10:21 The Lakers fans are out in full on the road once again, which you could tell in one of two ways: A) Opening your eyes (purple and gold everywhere); B) Listening to the roar after Ariza’s silly behind-the-head pass found Odom for a lefty layup and a 4-0 lead.

8:50 Kobe’s looked just fine on the ankle exploding past Bibby for a dunk, though he did take off on his left foot. He’s been active defensively, but didn’t get great lift on two perimeter jumpers that fell short.

6:35 L.A. completely controlled tempo in the first half of the first quarter, but wasn’t able to fully take advantage: Ariza missed two wide open threes, Bryant and Fisher missed two good looks a piece and Odom missed from near the rim. Sure enough, as a team, L.A. shot 3-of-11, but held the Hawks to only six points themselves. Perhaps more importantly, Bryant was tagged with his second foul and had to leave in favor of Vujacic.

3:43 Things continued to go Atlanta’s way despite L.A.’s better efforts, with Zaza Pachulia twice being stuffed by Odom before finally converting a layup. Vujacic missed his second triple on the next play, and L.A. was 4-of-16 from the field (25 percent). Though Bibby hit a deep jumper to claim Atlanta’s first lead, Jordan Farmar responded with a triple to make it 13-12 Lakers.

1:54 Completely alone up the court, Josh Smith went for one of the biggest dunks most of us have seen in person … And clanked it super hard off the back rim. The dunk would have put Atlanta up five, but instead gave the Lakers the ball.

0:09.5 Ariza just couldn’t find his shot, missing badly to go 0-for-6 on the quarter. His struggles were systemic of the entire team, who made only 5-of-23 shots, otherwise known as 21.7 percent.

Surely that, more than anything, was L.A.’s problem, and the reason they scored just 13 points. Good thing their defense was solid, holding Atlanta to 9-of-25 from the field (36 percent), to keep the deficit at just seven heading into the second quarter.

Second Quarter
11:35 Into the game came Josh Powell and Luke Walton, joining Farmar, Vujacic and Gasol. It’s a special day for Powell, who’s from Atlanta and purchased 22 tickets to the sold out contest. He contributed immediately, playing tough defense to force a missed shot from Horford near the cup.

Bibby9:50 Atlanta’s best player thus far? Pachulia, who simply outworked the Lakers in the paint to the tune of six points and eight boards, including three offensive, helping push a 24-16 lead as Bryant remained on the bench and Gasol finally got a rest from D.J. Mbenga.

8:45 Kobe checked back in, and will most likely finish the quarter. One could speculate that Jackson didn’t want to stagger his minutes in the first quarter, so as to let that ankle stiffen up, but wanted to leave him in instead for stretches (six straight first quarter minutes, eight straight in the second quarter).

5:49 Fisher hit back-to-back contested shots to pull L.A. within 29-22 after they’d fallen behind by a game-high 11 points. In unrelated news, I regrettably didn’t have the chance to check out “The World of Coca-Cola” here in the brand’s birthplace/capital. I hoped the Coke would taste better in the media room, but nope – contrary to the Guinness Factory in Dublin, Ireland, where the beer is exceptional. The reason, of course, is that they brew the beer there, where as Coke comes in by truck to Philips Arena (oops, just defeated my argument).

5:15 Atlanta’s PA announcer was a full 10 seconds late in announcing Flip Murray’s three-pointer. He was either watching Louisville lose to Michigan State, texting someone or finishing Atlanta’s excellent bread pudding. Fisher answered, however, continuing his hot shooting from Jersey (18 points).

3:42 Mario West scored on a reverse layup to put the Hawks up 38-27, but the Lakers still have this on tape. Now, to address the 11-point lead, it’s been a combination of missed open looks, pretty feisty Hawks’ defense, but mostly the absence of Kobe Bryant being Kobe Bryant. He’d attempted just four shots in 10 minutes, and L.A. wasn’t calling any plays for him.

2:43 Of course … He’s still Kobe. Even though he was a step slow as West chased him across the perimeter, Bryant managed to cross him over, pull up and swish a fadeaway from 19 feet.

1:43 Deploying decoy mode to its fullest, Bryant drew a second defender and then found Ariza for a wide-open dunk to cut the lead to five.

0:39.2 The Kobe pull-up momentum three: swish. Lakers down one.

0:15.0 Murray managed a quick layup, but Bryant lobbed into Gasol, who spun right around Solomon Jones for a dunk to make it 40-39 at the horn. So, after an offensive struggle, Bryant used his brains – not his somewhat limited athleticism – to pull L.A. back within a point. Certainly not what Atlanta had in mind.

Still, the Lakers shots only 33 percent in the half, and turned the ball over eight times. Odom was 1-of-6, Ariza 1-of-7 and Bryant 3-of-7, typifying the team’s shooting woes. The thing is, since it was the first half … That doesn’t really matter, as long as the Lakers straighten their collective stroke in the game’s latter stages.

Third Quarter
9:24 Generally, the Lakers open the third with a defensive burst, doing their best to force contested perimeter shots. Well, perimeter shots it was to start the third … The Hawks just happened to make four consecutive threes to take a 54-44 lead.

Lamar7:13 The threes kept dropping for Atlanta, who got its second of the quarter from former Laker Maurice Evans. Mike Bibby also hit two, and Johnson was good on his only attempt for a 5-for-5 team effort. The Hawks had made just 2-of-7 in the first half, and used their Craig Hodges form to go back up 10.

5:06 Ariza finally connected from downtown after missing his first three attempts, pulling L.A. within five.

2:32 Spero Dedes, your radio play-by-play man, made a good point to me at halftime: Why isn’t Pau Gasol getting the ball more often in the paint? He has a big-time mismatch with Horford or Smith guarding him, yet had taken only seven shots at this point in the game. Sure enough, when Bryant found him on the baseline, Gasol was immediately fouled. He made one free throw that made it 64-56 Hawks.

1:33 Evans again from three, Atlanta’s sixth make of the quarter. You’d of course rather have Ariza, but credit Evans for stepping up against his former squad.

1:06 A big goofy but angry scowl could be seen on Pachulia’s face as he again out-muscled the Lakers in the lane to tip in a Hawks miss. The problems for L.A. continued to spiral rather quickly as Johnson poked away Bryant’s dribble, resulting in an Evans’ dunk.

Bryant did manage a last-second reverse layup to bring L.A. within 14, 72-58, heading into the final quarter. Most notably, the Lakers’ 18 points in the period were matched by Atlanta’s six triples alone. Plenty of time remained, nonetheless.

Fourth Quarter
10:50 J-Peezy entertained his 22 family members and friends in his hometown with a huge block from the weakside of Evans, which L.A. turned into a Gasol layup. Yet once again, Pachulia made a play to answer, and had already totaled 11 points with 13 damaging boards. I think we’ll still remember him most for getting into a near fight after not backing down to Kevin Garnett’s constant trash talking in last year’s playoffs.

Kobe9:23 A triple from Bryant was flat, and caromed off the front rim. Hawks 76, Lakers 60.

7:39 Two Luke Walton hoops in the lane, and the Lakers were quickly within 10 points. The general NBA rule is that you’d like to be within at least 10 points with six minutes remaining in the game, and L.A. had already bested that.

7:04 Finally testing the ankle with a drive to the rim was Bryant, who ran right through a double team to make it an eight-point game. L.A. had a chance to make it 76-71 on Odom’s open three-point attempt, but it rimmed out long and led to a Bibby triple which put Atlanta back up 11. That’s a relatively big swing, particularly in terms of momentum, as the last two minutes had belonged to L.A.

5:30 If one play were emblematic of this contest, it was Bibby’s three-pointer, which clanked so high off the front rim that it bounced on top of the backboard before somehow falling back through the rim. Hawks by 12, on the second run-stopping triple from the former Sacramento King.

3:38 Bryant just didn’t have the lift, missing again from three-point range with a chance to cut the lead to seven.

0:20.5 Ariza’s missed three was the 19th shot gone awry between he and Lamar Odom, but the game had been decided three minutes earlier as Atlanta emerged 86-76. The road winning streak was halted, but the more important home court advantage in the West had been clinched in New Jersey on Friday, so L.A. can live with this loss.