In order to get their first road victory in nine months, the new-look Lakers had to overcome a monster night from a familiar face.
One-time Laker Dwight Howard piled up 31 points and 11 rebounds for previously unbeaten Atlanta, but the Lakers used a collective effort and a red-hot fourth quarter from their homecoming hero to topple the Hawks, 123-116.
Atlanta native and one-time Hawk Lou Williams had only managed to score two points heading into the final period, but he seemed to have a bucket whenever the Lakers (2-3) needed one in the fourth.
Down by four to start the frame, Williams and the Lakers began on a 12-4 run, pushing ahead of the Hawks on a straightaway 3-pointer from second-overall pick Brandon Ingram, which was followed by an and-1 basket by Williams.
However, the Hawks (3-1) were far from finished. When they cut the Lakers’ lead to one with two minutes left, Williams found himself with the ball and the shot clock running down.
Williams — who head coach Luke Walton said “bailed us out” in the fourth quarter — cooly fired a 27-foot 3-pointer that swished through the net and then bounced a pass to Larry Nance Jr. for a dunk on the following possession.
Holding onto a four-point lead with 48 seconds remaining, Julius Randle came up big with a swat and Nick Young iced the victory with a 3-pointer.
But it was clearly Williams who led the way, dropping 16 points and three assists in the fourth quarter alone to finish with 18 and four, respectively.
“It’s always fun to win in Atlanta,” Williams said. “Especially playing here, just having so many different incentives: being on that team at one point, being from Atlanta, being in front of your home crowd. For me, tonight was a good day.”
All Together Now
It took more than a fiery fourth from Williams to beat an Atlanta club that had won all three of its prior games by double digits.
In fact, the Hawks seemed to be rolling toward another victory when they rushed out to an 11-point first-quarter lead behind the best quarter of Tim Hardaway Jr.’s career.
The backup shooting guard scored 14 points in seven minutes, eventually finishing with 26 points on 8-of-10 shooting with five 3-pointers.
Despite Hardaway and Howard dominating early, the Lakers were able to stay in the game, as Jordan Clarkson scored 11 points in the second quarter while Young added a dozen in the third.
The Lakers hung around enough to start making moves in the second half, in which they outscored the Hawks, 72-56.
Atlanta — which came in allowing the league’s fewest points (88.7) — surrendered a whopping 120 on the night, as six Lakers scored in double figures, led by D’Angelo Russell, who piled up 23 points, eight assists and three blocks.
“He was in control of the game and it wasn’t just from scoring,” Walton said. “It was the plays he was calling. He was getting people touches. He had the defense guessing where he was going to be going.”
The Lakers succeeded by getting out in transition, outscoring Atlanta on fast-breaks, 25-12. Russell and Williams were aided by the contributions of Young (17 points), Clarkson (16), Larry Nance Jr. (14) and Luol Deng (13 points, 10 rebounds).
“We got some killers on our team, man,” Russell said.
On top of that, the Lakers made the most of their foul shots, going 18-of-20 at the free throw line while ending a 16-game road losing streak dating back to Feb. 6, 2016.
“They’ve been giving a hell of an effort all year (from) training camp, preseason,” Walton said. “When you have them in there, you hear the joy in their voices and having fun after games instead of the quiet locker room when you lose.”
Ivica Zubac finally made his NBA debut, starting in place of Timofey Mozgov, who was sidelined due to a left eye contusion.
Zubac — who had spent the previous four games on the inactive list — scored the Lakers’ first four points and finished with six on a 3-of-3 mark.
He spent the majority of the evening in foul trouble while trying to contain Howard and, to a lesser degree, perennial All-Star Paul Millsap — a duo that Walton called “one of the best big-man combinations in the NBA.”
Prior to the game Clarkson offered his 19-year-old teammate some encouragement for guarding Howard, telling Zubac to “bust his a—,” according to Clarkson.
The Lakers held Millsap to 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting, while marksman Kyle Korver shot just 1-of-6. … L.A. shot 53.9 percent on the night. … A largely pro-Lakers crowd of 13,800 attended at Philips Arena.