Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening home contest, the team’s first since the All-Star break, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Hawks: M. Bibby, J. Johnson, J. Smith, A. Horford, J. Collins
9:00 Three minutes into L.A.’s post All-Star break stretch and the home team had taken an 8-0 lead on strength of three perimeter jumpers from Derek Fisher. The Hawks had tweaked their usual line up, starting 7-footer Jason Collins at center to push Al Horford to power forward and Josh Smith to small forward, with the hope of better matching up with L.A.’s bigs.
6:00 Atlanta’s commitment to packing the paint did keep the Lakers on the perimeter to start the game, L.A. simply taking what was there and hitting 5-of-9 jumpers in the first six minutes. Things opened up a bit from there, however, as Bryant earned two free throws, Gasol showed his underrated dribbling and passing skills while leading a fastbreak off a turnover (resulting in Artest’s layup) and Bryant adding a reverse lay up to make it 16-8 Lakers.
0:00 Phil Jackson was a bit dubious about how his squad would come out of the All-Star break, but he had to have been happy to see a focused, efficient effort from his team, who made 12-of-17 field goals before Shannon Brown missed a half-court attempt at the buzzer. The effective shooting and pretty focused defense produced a 28-15 edge on the scoreboard.
8:10 After a poor offensive start to the quarter, Jackson called time out, then watched Brown get to the rim for a dunk on one trip and hit a triple on the next to reach a team-high seven points, putting the Lakers up 35-23.
3:59 I thought Lamar Odom, perhaps more than any other Laker, needed the All-Star break to rest both mentally and physically. He was the only one who’d played for Team USA in the World Championships, meaning he’d barely had any time away from basketball. Apparently, the break did him some good, as he looked fresh in scoring nine points (3-of-3 FG’s) with three boards and an assist, LAL up 42-27.
0:00 From the 5:42 mark of the second until 52 seconds remained, the Hawks failed to score a single point. During that time, the Lakers rolled off 14 straight to eventually take a 53-33 lead into halftime. It was a very well balanced effort from the Purple and Gold: Fisher led the way with 10 points; Bryant notched five assists; Bynum grabbed 11 rebounds; Gasol did a bit of everything with eight points, seven boards and four assists. Overall, a terrific half.
9:42 This stanza summed up how the game had gone: Bryant got hit with a flagrant foul after mistiming his leap and coming down with two hands on Josh Smith’s shot attempt, but Smith missed both free throws and Mike Bibby a corner three on the ensuing possession. Bryant then hit a triple at the other end, putting the Lakers back up 21 points.
3:00 Atlanta finally got something going on offense, but with L.A. continuing to play well early in the quarter, an 8-2 run only got them within 20 points. A balanced offensive effort had four Lakers starters (all but Bynum) in double figures at that point, with Odom a point away from joining.
12:00 The best part of the Lakers taking a 80-54 lead into the fourth quarter as far as their coaches are concerned: few more, if any minutes needed from Bryant (26 minutes), Gasol (31), Fisher (24), Artest (23) and Bynum (25) in the fourth, though Gasol did start with Odom (17 minutes).
8:26 Gasol held his follow through after hitting a jumper that had been off on this evening (4-for-9), showing that he’s always concerned with his efficiency. He then left the game for good with 14 points, 10 boards and four assists, the Lakers up 87-60.
2:01 For good measure, rookie Devin Ebanks threw down a two-handed hammer dunk off an alley-oop from Steve Blake, lover of the oop pass. It was Blake’s fourth assist off the bench, and left Derrick Caracter as the only Laker yet to score in a 100-76 blow out.
33 First half points for Atlanta, who struggled with L.A.’s packed in defense. The Lakers watched film on help defense for at least an hour on Monday, which certainly seemed to help.
22 More rebounds grabbed by the Lakers, at 54-32.
15 Season high rebound mark tied by Andrew Bynum, who did exactly what his coaches have asked of him in this one with a combination of board work and tough defense. He took only three shots, making one. Pau Gasol added 10 boards.
11 Lakers who scored at least two points, as subs Devin Ebanks and Joe Smith added buckets in garbage time. The only player not to get on the scoreboard was Derrick Caracter.
1 Player who logged at least 30 minutes, Gasol with 34. This a good thing with a back-to-back on Wednesday night at always-tough-to-play-in Portland. Bryant played only 26 minutes en route to a game-high 20 points.