We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 99-98 win against Atlanta:
Turnovers for the Lakers, which led to 29 points for Atlanta, allowing the Hawks to get back into the game after trailing by as much as 16 points in the third quarter. Many of L.A.’s miscues allowed the Hawks to get out in transition, too, which led to 24 fastbreak points.
Lead changes in the contest, plus six ties. In the fourth quarter alone, both teams traded leads 10 times, the difference being Kobe Bryant’s bank shot over Josh Smith with nine seconds remaining. “At a certain point, it becomes all about heart,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Tonight we had it. It can’t be pretty all the time. We had plenty of looks I thought that we could have knocked down to kind of keep the score where it needed to be. Some nights you just don’t hit them and somehow you have to find a way to win, and we did.”
Points apiece off the bench for Devin Harris and Kyle Korver, the two single-handedly carrying Atlanta late in the third quarter and early fourth. During one stretch, Harris and Korver accounted for 20 straight Hawks points, which erased an eight-point deficit and tied the game at 80-all with 10:42 remaining.
Assists for Steve Nash, the first time he had reached double-digit assists in a month. The 6-foot-3 guard also scored 15 points and finished a plus-20 on the evening, a team-high.
Straight points from Bryant to end the game, including a thunderous slam dunk over Smith to put the Lakers ahead at 95-94 with 2:17 remaining. The 16-year veteran finished with 34 points (25th time this season scoring at least 30-plus), six rebounds and four assists. “I don’t know where he’s getting his legs from,” D’Antoni said. “The last three or four possessions, he just went to the rim and made some incredible shots.”
With the win, the Lakers reached the .500 mark at 30-30 and sit two-and-a-half games back of Houston and Utah for the final playoff spot. L.A. is 5-1 since the All-Star break, 13-5 since Jan. 25 and have won eight of their last nine at STAPLES. “We’re playing much, much better,” Bryant said. “It’s going to be a big test for us on Tuesday (at Oklahoma City) in a building where it’s going to be a playoff-like atmosphere and one of the teams we could see in the first round of the playoffs. I’m excited for that.”