Lakers 101, Hawks 87: March 8 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening contest at Atlanta, the Lakers looking for their eighth straight victory out of 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:

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Hawks K. Hinrich, J. Johnson, M. Williams, J. Smith, A. Horford

FIRST QUARTER
9:00 What we’ve learned over the past few weeks about L.A.’s adjusted defense is that the team is content, even willing, to give up open mid-range jump shots, keeping Andrew Bynum home in the paint and contesting or running off the three-point line. Atlanta was able to take advantage early by making all four of their jumpers, but the Lakers got three hoops inside to tie the game at eight in the opening few minutes.

4:42 Phil Jackson said prior to the game that he didn’t want Kobe Bryant to engage in a 1-on-1 battle with Joe Johnson, instead hoping L.A. would use its big size advantages inside (Bynum over Al Horford and Gasol over Josh Smith), and that’s certainly how it was early. Bryant had yet to attempt a shot while the two trees had made three field goals each, but then hit two shots and fed Odom to spark a 6-0 run that helped L.A. take a 26-19 lead.

0:00 A poor effort from the Lakers’ bench saw Atlanta take advantage of 0-for-2 shooting with two turnovers to go on a 6-0 run, at least until Steve Blake hit a buzzer-beating three to give L.A. a 29-25 lead after one quarter.

SECOND QUARTER
10:15 The good D returned to open the second, however, and the Lakers took advantage on offense by getting a Brown jumper and Gasol tip-in to cap a 7-0 run that opened a 33-25 lead. Gasol had eight points, four boards, three dimes and a steal in 12 minutes.

2:50 Josh Smith’s three-pointer capped a quick 6-0 run to cut LAL’s lead to six, Phil Jackson taking a time out to express his displeasure with the Lakers conceding a few too many open looks for his liking.

0:00 But moments later, Bryant drew a foul on a three-point attempt and drilled all three free throws, in the process surpassing NBA legend Moses Malone for 6th on the league’s all-time scoring list with 27,410 points. He just keeps climbing the list in a way that’s difficult to put into perspective. At the half, L.A. held an 8-point lead (57-49) behind 58 percent shooting, Bryant going 6-for-10 (15 points) and Odom 4-for-6 (10 points).

THIRD QUARTER
9:45 It was a bit odd to hear a “Let’s go Lakers!” chant break out in Philips Arena in Atlanta, though there have always been tons of purple and gold and Kobe supporters in the area. In fact, the guy behind me took up his own “Purp and Yellow” chant just after the big one died down. Meanwhile, the Lakers opened a 14-point lead, their biggest of the game, continuing their excellent stretch of basketball since the All-Star break.

6:02 Following a stretch of slightly better play from Atlanta, the Lakers went on another 7-0 run to this time open a 16-point lead at 70-54.

2:26 More of the same, with the lead increasing to 22 points. Bryant had 20 points and four assists, Bynum 12 points and 12 rebounds, Gasol 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Fisher 11 points with three assists. Complete dominance in a building in which L.A. hadn’t won since 2007.

FOURTH QUARTER
5:45 A game that appeared to be over was suddenly not, Atlanta opening the fourth quarter with a big run to get within eight points on a Kirk Hinrich jumper when the lead had been 22 a few minutes earlier. L.A. had relaxed with their big edge, and Atlanta taken advantage to make things a bit interesting.

3:20 But then the Lakers locked back down on defense, and got a dagger triple from Bryant over a draped-to-his-body, 6-10 Smith, making it 96-82. Jackson had rewarded Bynum’s terrific play by keeping him in the game, continuing to take advantage of a matchup that had killed the Hawks all evening. The young center had 16 points, 15 boards and three blocks in his 33 minutes.

0:00 Bryant would add some more points at the line, the game concluding to a chorus of cheers from Lakers fans in Atlanta that had been so loud all day, the 101-87 score sending the Lakers to a perfect 8-0 record since the break. Your numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
27,410 Points reached in his career by Kobe Bryant in the second quarter, enough to surpass Moses Malone for sixth on the NBA’s all-time scoring chart. He finished with 26 points in the game to lead all scorers.

39.7 Atlanta’s shooting percentage for the game. This was actually the sixth time in eight games since the break that the Lakers have held their opponent below 40 percent from the field, a remarkable stat showcasing outstanding team defense.

22 L.A.’s biggest lead of the game, coming late in the third quarter, before the Hawks finally rallied to cut the lead to eight midway through the fourth quarter, forcing the Lakers starters back into the contest to close it out.

16 Rebounds and points for Andrew Bynum in yet another terrific all-around game out of the All-Star break.

8 Consecutive wins for the Lakers out of the break, five of which have come on the road.