Kobe Bryant brought the Los Angeles Lakers to the brink of another late-game comeback with a deep three-pointer to pull within one, but couldn't finish in the fourth quarter as Los Angeles fell, 96-92, to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night at Philips Arena.
The Hawks (35-29) used stifling defense to hold the Lakers to just 18 fourth-quarter points.
Devin Harris led the way for the Hawks as he drew the start in place of incumbent Jeff Teague. He finished with 17 points and seven assists. Al Horford had a strong performance of his own with 14 points and 14 rebounds, notching a double-double and sealing the game with key plays down the stretch. Atlanta had balance and depth working in their favor as six players scored in double figures and the bench had 46 points.
Dwight Howard's activity was again the story for the Lakers (34-32) and brought them within striking distance, but early foul trouble kept him out of rhythm as he finished with 10 points and 16 rebounds. A block by the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year sparked a transition three-ponter by Steve Blake to give the Lakers a three-point lead, and induced a technical foul by Hawks head coach Larry Drew.
But the Hawks put the game away by forcing three of L.A.'s eight turnovers in the fourth. Bryant was sensational in the third quarter, scoring 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting, but struggled in the fourth with the exception of the late bomb from beyond the arc. He finished just 11-of-33 and scored 31 points for a game-high.
The Lakers went cold in the first half, shooting just 40.5 percent through the first two frames and a dismal 28.6 percent from the three-point line. Atlanta outrebounded the Lakers, who were clearly tired coming off a win in Orando the night before, by a margin of 28-20 over the same stretch.