Lakers 99, Hawks 98: March 3 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday evening contest against Atlanta, the 29-30 Lakers trying to get to .500, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Clark and Howard
Hawks: J. Teague, D. Stevenson, J. Smith, A. Horford, Z. Pachulia

FIRST QUARTER
4:37 A relative constant of late: Antawn Jamison checking in and immediately draining a three-pointer, which he did here to make it a 23-12 early lead for the home team. Atlanta had started a big line up trying to better deal with Dwight Howard, but was out of sync on offense, the Lakers taking early advantage with six guys scoring.

2:26 The Hawks, however, reeled off a quick 8-0 run to force a Lakers time out, with both teams going small as Howard took a rest and the successful bench trio of Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison joined Bryant and Earl Clark to close out the quarter. Things continued going the way of the Hawks, however, despite Bryant reaching 11 points, as 11 of 19 shots went down for the visitors to close the 11-point gap to four at 30-26.

SECOND QUARTER
8:41 Things got worse quickly for the Lakers, with Al Horford capping an 11-0 run to start the second quarter, putting the Lakers in a 37-30 hole, quite the turnaround from how things started. Howard was growing frustrated with physical play inside, and drew a technical foul for complaining amidst the run. He’d made only 1 of 4 shots and had two of the team’s nine turnovers, though he did snap the run with consecutive hoops at the rim to get the Lakers back within three.

0:00 L.A. closed the first half as well as they started the game, turning that deficit into a 7-point lead at the half, 52-45, thanks to a combination of Nash assists (seven) and Kobe points (14) plus Howard rebounds (11) and paint defense, all three doing what they’re best at. Jamison was big off the bench as well, totaling 10 points with his six boards in relief duty.

THIRD QUARTER
6:48 L.A. picked up where it left off to close the half, pushing its lead to a game-high 16 points at 67-51 as Nash and Bryant continued to run the show from the backcourt, the latter’s alley-oop to Howard capping the most recent burst. L.A. was shooting 53 percent from the field at that point, and had yet to allow a single offensive board for the Hawks.

0:00 The Hawks rallied from there, however, cutting the lead to just five points when Josh Smith and Devin Harris got hot, Smith reaching 19 points and Harris nine of his 11 in the final few minutes, behind two triples and an and-1 leaner. Then with 4.3 seconds left, Harris drained his third straight three, scoring all 12 Hawks points in the final three minutes, but his mistake – for the second straight quarter – was leaving Kobe too much time. Bryant beat the buzzer moments later with a triple of his own, to give him 23 points and L.A. a 79-73 cushion heading into the fourth.

FOURTH QUARTER
10:00 That 16-point lead? Yeah, it was all gone, Harris staying hot and Kyle Korver hitting as well to tie the game at 80. Steve Blake answered with a jumper (8 points, 4 assists) and Bryant 1 of 2 free throws after an early fourth quarter return, however, to keep L.A. on top for the time being…

3:55 … The lead didn’t last long, as the teams went back and forth for the next six minutes, resting in a 90-all tie when Bryant – who’d reached 28 points – missed a layup along the baseline. Keeping the Hawks in it were 20 Lakers turnovers, resulting in 27 ATL points, compared to 16 Lakers points on 13 Hawks turnovers. Atlanta was moving the ball very well on offense, we should note, amassing 34 assists on 38 field goals.

0:00 It was, fittingly, Kobe making the major plays down the stretch, all at the rim. First came an explosive dunk through traffic with 2:17 to go that put the Lakers up one. Then two foul shots drawn driving in the paint to counter two Jeff Teague free throws. And finally, a layup through Atlanta’s trees with nine seconds on the clock, countering Horford’s hoop with 26 seconds to play. The Hawks had one more chance, but Smith couldn’t collect a pass on the baseline, and threw the ball away to Blake, waiting in the painted area, with time expiring moments later. As such, the Lakers held on to win 99-98, improving to .500 for the first time in a long time, still 2.5 games back of Houston and and three games back of six place Golden State. Up next is Tuesday’s contest at OKC, and Wednesday’s at New Orleans. We’ll see you there.