(Photo By: Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)
Lakers at Hawks: 3 Things to Know (2/12/19)
Here is what you need to know before the Lakers’ last game before the all-star break, against the Atlanta Hawks.
1) Kuz and Bron are coming off hot performances.
Kyle Kuzma took his game to a seldom-seen level on Sunday, piling up 23 points in the first quarter alone. And the sophomore kept pouring it on, finishing with 39 points on 14-of-21 shooting.
Kuzma’s jumper was true all night long, as he hit five 3-pointers and a few from mid-range. But he also added some finishes at the rim, including three off Eurosteps.
Meanwhile, LeBron James continued his dominant post-injury run with 18 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. He has practically averaged a triple-double in his four games since his return — putting up 22.0 points, 10.8 boards and 9.8 dimes a night.
2) Defense is vital for this final stretch
With Kuzma and James leading the way, the Lakers had more than enough offense — 120 points, specifically — to pull out a victory. The problem was that they surrendered 143 to Philadelphia.
This has become an unfortunate trend for the Lakers, who have spent the bulk of the season as one of the league’s top defensive teams.
The past 11 games have seen little of that tenacity. During this stretch, they rank last in points allowed (125.5) and among the bottom three in 3-pointers allowed (15.2), opponent 3-point percentage (39.1) and defensive rating (119.4).
With 26 games left in the regular season and the Lakers currently 2 1/2 games out of eighth place, they will have to return to the defense that they had been playing prior to this downturn (which has coincided with Lonzo Ball’s injury).
“We have to get it back,” JaVale McGee said. “We know what’s at stake. We have a goal in mind, that’s to make the playoffs. And playing defense like that, we’re not going to make it.”
3) Hawks aren’t to be taken lightly
While Atlanta may be 20 games under .500, its roster is more than talented enough to get this win on its home court.
The Hawks are led by two players selected (alongside Kuzma) for Saturday’s Rising Stars Challenge.
John Collins is using his supreme athleticism to nearly average a double-double (19.3 points, 9.8 rebounds), ranking among the league’s top 10 in field goal percentage, offensive rebounds and dunks.
Trae Young, meanwhile, is already among the NBA’s top passers, placing seventh in assists (7.4). He has also found his shooting recently, hitting 43.3 percent of his 3-pointers over the last nine games.
Lakers: LeBron James (load management/groin) is probable. Josh Hart (left knee patellar tendinitis) and Lonzo Ball (left ankle sprain) are out. Isaac Bonga, Alex Caruso and Johnathan Williams are on G League assignment.
Hawks: Jaylen Adams (right ankle sprain) is questionable. Miles Plumlee (left knee pain) is out. Alex Poythress is on G League assignment.
Tip-Off: 4:30 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: Gold Icon
Location: State Farm Arena — Atlanta, Georgia