LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 14: Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots over Eric Dampier #25 and Vladimir Radmanovic #77 of the Atlanta Hawks at Staples Center on February 14, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 86-78. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant floundered, but the rest of the L.A. Lakers stepped up to beat the Atlanta Hawks.
Kobe Bryant's on a bit of a scoring slide after devastating defenses throughout the month of January. Since the first of the month, Kobe's cracked 30 points (in a loss to the Knicks) and 40 percent shooting (in that win over the Celtics) just once apiece. Tuesday night's match-up with the feisty Hawks didn't change much, but it did offer one kind wrinkle to Kobe's evening. While Bryant scored just 10 points on 18 shots, the rest of the Lakers scored at a respectable 48 percent clip, which far outpaced Atlanta's dismal 34 percent shooting (including 7-27 from downtown). Hell, Kobe could've bricked 10 more shots and the Lakers still would have outgunned the Hawks.
In any event, pretty much every other Laker added something to the Laker scoring: Andrew Bynum's 15 points were efficient as ever. Pau Gasol caught quite a bit of rim in the paint (9-22 from the field) but ripped down eight offensive rebounds. Mike Brown's second unit contributed solid three-point shooting (Troy Murphy lives!) and a few scrappy inside buckets from the hands of Matt Barnes. Oh, and Metta World Peace pensively sank two of his five three-point attempts (such visible inner turmoil before each attempt!).
The Lakers defended decently, too, but it often seemed like the Hawks had just eaten something funky for breakfast. Atlanta missed in pretty much every imaginable realm -- at the rim, from medium range, and around the perimeter. Bad shots and good shots alike struck iron, though it did feel like a couple important Hawks tossed more of the former than the latter. Guys kept leaning on shots they weren't hitting and avoiding shots that they were. Joe Johnson, for instance, shot 1-8 from outside the arc and 6-9 inside of it. Josh Smith hit just 3 of 11 outside the paint and 4-7 from inside. And -- without taking too much credit away from the Laker defense -- it seemed mostly to be that kind of decision-making, combined with just lacking the touch, that doomed Atlanta. Silver Screen and Roll saw some solid individual performances, but little in the way of team defense to stand behind the numbers:
...the Lakers held the Hawks to a moribund PPP of .87, and yet their defense seemed a little flat, especially as it pertained to limiting offensive rebounding. The Hawks routinely missed wide open layups (at one point missing three in a row), and the Lakers were often caught flat footed in watching the Hawks pursue loose balls. None of that mattered, because Atlanta couldn't hit a shot to save their lives. There were some strong defensive performances (Metta World Peace kept Joe Johnson in check, and Pau Gasol did a great job altering shots near the rim), but there was nothing overly special about the Lakers defensive performance, despite the very strong defensive result.
So, it wasn't the cleanest or prettiest of wins, but it was a balanced effort and a solid accomplishment for the Lakers against a top team (albeit playing some of their worst basketball). The win moved L.A. to 17-12 and an impressive 12-2 at home while Atlanta fell to 18-11 overall.