(Photo By: Ty Nowell/Lakers.com)

Lakers vs. Hawks: 3 Things to Know (1/7/18)

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

Here is what you need to know before the Lakers face the Atlanta Hawks.

1) It’s all about defense
The good news: The Lakers have the talent to be one of the league’s best defensive teams. The bad news: They haven’t come close to maximizing that talent lately.

Through the first 29 games of the season, the Lakers ranked eighth in defensive rating (103.3 points per 100 possessions). Across their nine-game losing streak, they are last (114.4).

There are plenty of reasons for this decline, including injuries to two of their best defenders: Lonzo Ball and Brook Lopez. But even with those two back, the Lakers have struggled to regain that defensive tenacity that allowed them to compete against the likes of Golden State, Cleveland and Houston.

On some level, it boils down to simple communication and effort, as the Lakers have been susceptible to backdoor cuts and vulnerable against pick-and-rolls.

If the Lakers are going to snap their slide, they will have to do it on this end of the floor.

2) Expect more Julius in this one
With Andrew Bogut waived on Saturday and Larry Nance Jr. (flu-like symptoms) listed as questionable, that leaves Lopez and Julius Randle as L.A.’s only healthy rotation bigs.

Randle will likely see more minutes with Nance’s ailment probably limiting him if he does play. The Lakers like to use small, pace-pushing lineups, which aren’t as conducive to 7-footers like Lopez, Ivica Zubac and Thomas Bryant.

Randle also has the highest defensive ceiling on the team. He has been the key to the second unit’s switching defense, as opposing guards have typically failed to get past the Lakers’ quick-footed big man.

If he is engaged, the Lakers’ defense because exponentially more difficult to crack. While he is averaging 17.0 points and 10.5 rebounds over the last week, defense is where the Lakers need most of his effort.

3) Atlanta is more dangerous than your typical last-place team
Sure, the Hawks have the worst record of the entire league, but head coach Mike Budenholzer has done a nice job of getting his guys to excel in certain areas.

The Hawks’ pass-heavy offense leads to quality looks, as they rank fourth in the NBA in assists (23.8) and fifth in 3-point percentage (37.9). On the other end, they force the league’s most opponent turnovers (16.6).

Meanwhile, point guard Dennis Schroder is a chore to keep out of the paint, as he scores the second-most points off drives (11.5).

The Lakers will need to take advantage of Atlanta’s spongey defense. The Hawks allow opponents to shoot 47.5 percent from the field (third-worst) and are particularly susceptible on the offensive glass.

Limiting Schroder and efficient offense should lead to a bit of L.A. revenge against Atlanta after that Rams-Falcons playoff game.

Injury Report
Larry Nance Jr. (flu-like symptoms) is probable.
Hawks: Dewayne Dedmon (left tibia stress reaction) and DeAndre’ Bembry (left groin strain) are out. Mike Muscala (sprained left ankle) is probable.

Tip-Off: 6:30 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet and Spectrum Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: White
Location: STAPLES Center — Los Angeles, California

Click here to view game notes for this contest.

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