Hawks vs. Lakers Game Preview

Sunday, December 15, 2013
By Robby Kalland

Los Angeles Lakers v Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks (12-12) will be back in action at home Monday night against the Lakers (11-12). The Hawks will be looking to earn a split in the season series after a 105-103 loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles in the third game of the season. In that first meeting, the Lakers got big games from Xavier Henry and Nick Young, who combined for 31 points on 10-of-20 shooting.

The Lakers now have Kobe Bryant back from his Achilles’ injury, and Bryant is starting to round into form after a nice game against the Bobcats on Saturday night. Bryant had 21 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, and seven turnovers in the Lakers’ 88-85 victory over the Bobcats, their first win since his return. Kobe is averaging 13.5 points, 7.0 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 6.3 turnovers in his four games since returning from injury. Bryant is clearly still adjusting to playing with his new teammates and has had seven or more turnovers in three of four games.

While Bryant’s play is starting to improve, Pau Gasol is in the middle of a major slump right now. In December, Gasol is averaging just 13.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, and is shooting just 37.5% from the field in just 27.7 minutes per game. With Gasol struggling and having issues with coach Mike D’Antoni and Chris Kaman sitting out with injury, the Lakers have had to look to others like Jordan HillShawne Williams, and Robert Sacre for front-court production.

The Hawks will look to get a better offensive game from their front court of Paul Millsap and Al Horford, who had 26 combined points on 9-of-21 shooting in the first game. Part of the reason for the Lakers’ success against Horford and Millsap is their stout defense against pick-and-roll roll-men. The Lakers’ are the best in the NBA defending the roll man, allowing just 0.82 points per possession (per Synergy Sports). The Lakers’ frontcourt has had it’s offensive issues, but they have not let that effect their defensive effort, particularly against the pick-and-roll.

Millsap and Horford have played in the month of December, and will need to continue that against the Lakers. Horford is averaging 19.8 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per game, and is shooting 55.3% from the field so far in the month of December (six games). Millsap has 18.8 points per game and 11.3 rebounds per game and is shooting 43.9% in December (six games). Horford and Millsap will provide a major test for the Lakers’ pick-and-roll defense, and if they can find success, something they were not able to do in the first match-up, then the Hawks will be in a great position to get a win.

The Hawks will hope to get Jeff Teague back on track, as Teague has been struggling of late after getting off to a terrific start to the season. Teague has not been as aggressive attacking the paint and is shooting just 34.5% from the field in the past 11 games (Hawks are 4-7). Teague has to be the catalyst for the Hawks offense, and when he is probing the lane and pressuring the defense the Hawks are at their best.

The Lakers have a tough point guard situation right now with Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar, and Steve Blake all out with injury, forcing Jodie Meeks into the starting point guard role and don’t have a true point guard in their rotation. This bodes well for Teague, who should be able to take advantage of the Lakers’ thin backcourt depth and, if he is aggressive, could get himself out of his recent slump.

The Hawks are coming off of a tough loss against the Knicks on Saturday night in which they had 27 turnovers, a season-high. The Hawks shot the ball incredibly well from the field and got a great performance from Lou Williams who had 27 points, but the turnovers proved too much to overcome. Atlanta will look to tighten up their ball security, but can take away some positives, like Williams’ great play in his first action on a  back-to-back this season.

Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

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