Notebook: Lakers 99, Hawks 98

Posted Mar 4, 2013 1:27 AM

By Dan Arritt, For

THE FACTS: The Los Angeles Lakers got back to square one Sunday night, a destination they never envisioned they'd be shooting for during the first week of March. They reached .500 (30-30) for the first time in 2013 on the back of Kobe Bryant, who scored 34 points -- the last two on a high-banking, heavily contested layup with nine seconds remaining. That basket stood up as the game winner in the 99-98 victory against the Atlanta Hawks at Staples Center.

QUOTABLE: "I don't know where he's getting his young legs from but, obviously, the last three or four possessions he went right to the rim and made some incredible shots."

--Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni

THE STAT: The Lakers are 5-1 since the All Star break, 13-5 since Jan. 25 and own as many wins as losses for the first time since Dec. 28. They're still 2 ½ games back of the eighth and final playoff spot, however.

TURNING POINT: The Lakers let a 16-point third-quarter lead evaporate behind the hot shooting of Atlanta (33-25), mostly from backup guards Devin Harris and Kyle Korver, who scored 16 points apiece. Al Horford put the Hawks ahead, 84-83, with a slam dunk off an L.A. turnover with 8:11 remaining and both teams proceeded to swap leads four more times before Bryant made his game-winning move. He drove around Horford from the left wing and elevated toward the basket. Josh Smith slid over to help and also rose into the air, causing Bryant to pull the ball down in flight and then bank it high off the glass and through the hoop. The Hawks had one last opportunity and Smith appeared to beat the Lakers defense with a backdoor move, but Harris' pass was slightly behind Smith and he was unable to control the ball. He regained possession but was too far under the basket, forcing him to pass it out top, where it was intercepted by Steve Blake just before the final horn sounded.

HOT: The Lakers shot 68.4 percent from the floor in the opening quarter, helping them surge to an early 11-point advantage. Outside of Bryant, the next best game belonged to point guard Steve Nash, who scored 15 points on 6-for-12 shooting and dished out 10 assists for his first double-double in a month. Metta World Peace also hit some big shots, finishing with 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting and blanketing Smith on Atlanta's final possession. Horford led the Hawks with 24 points on 12-for-20 shooting, extending his career-best streak of 20-point games to nine. Harris scored 12 points in the final three minutes of the third quarter, putting him in double figures for the sixth consecutive game.

NOT: Smith, a 65.9 percent career foul shooter heading into the game, was at 51.2 on the season. He then missed all six of his free throws against the Lakers, points that surely would have come in handy down the stretch. Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague made a couple baskets late, but finished with eight points on 3-for-13 shooting, his worst shooting performance of the season when taking double-digit shot attempts. Teague's latest effort came on the heels of his 3-for-10 performance in Friday's loss in Phoenix. The most blinding stat for the Lakers was their 21 turnovers, which resulted in 29 points for the Hawks.

GOOD MOVE: In what many consider the best dunk of the season for Bryant, he drove around Smith and threw down a tomahawk dunk that gave the Lakers a 95-94 lead with 2:16 remaining and brought the crowd to its feet for the remainder of the game. Those were the first of six straight points Bryant scored to close out the game. He also nailed a 25-foot 3-pointer to end the third quarter after the Lakers had to inbound the ball with 2.4 seconds on the clock.

QUOTABLE II: "I just wanted to attack. Take the game right to them. Be aggressive, be physical."

--Kobe Bryant

BAD MOVE: One quarter earlier, Harris showed everyone how to completely botch a final possession. Harris grabbed a defensive rebound with 24 seconds remaining in the first half and could have held the ball for a final shot. Instead, he launched a 25-footer with 12 seconds still remaining and didn't come close. Dwight Howard grabbed the rebound for the Lakers and Bryant drew a foul on Smith with one second remaining. Bryant went 1-for-2 from the line, giving the Lakers a 52-45 halftime lead.

QUOTABLE III: "There were times when we had a little bit of momentum and then we'd come down and get a stop and then turn the basketball over. We just can't play like that on the road."

--Atlanta coach Larry Drew

NOTABLE: Atlanta did not secure an offensive rebound until midway through the third quarter. The Hawks finished with eight offensive rebounds, but only produced seven second-chance points. ... Both teams combined to miss their first 30 field goal attempts before the Lakers grabbed the game's first offensive rebound with 4:43 left in the second quarter. ... Atlanta center Zaza Pachulia made his 15th start of the season. He finished with two points and two rebounds in 21 minutes. Korver came off the bench for the eighth time this season. ... The Lakers starters outscored the starting five for the Hawks, 37-21, in 13 minutes together. All other lineups for L.A. were outscored, 77-62.

UP NEXT: For the Lakers, Tuesday @ Oklahoma City, Wednesday @ New Orleans, Friday vs. Toronto. For the Hawks, Monday @ Denver, Wednesday vs. Philadelphia, Friday @ Boston.