The Hawks grabbed the lead early in the first quarter that grew to as many as 18 points in the first half. Atlanta shot 50 percent from 3-point range along with 16 assists on 20 made field goals while shooting 55.6 percent from the field. Los Angeles had balance scoring with Julius Randle leading the way with 11 points and seven rebounds. Brandon Bass and Marcelo Huertas combined for 16 points at the half.
This trend continued in the second half with Los Angeles failing to string together any offensive rhythm with Atlanta holding a comfortable double-digit lead throughout the final two quarters of the play.
The loss marked the first time since the 1973-74 season that the Lakers have been swept in the regular season by the Hawks. Here are five things we learned:
With the Lakers playing short-handed, it a prime opportunity for the Lakers’ rookie guard to step up but he struggled scoring only seven points while hitting just 3-of-16 shots from the field, including 1-of-6 from 3-point range.
Russell was quite in the first half with three points on 1-of-7 shooting with three assists. Although he struggled with his shot, he did have a couple of impressive passes to find teammates for high percentage looks. That said, his shooting struggles continued in the second half making just 2-of-9 shot attempts.
“Just one of those nights for me,” Russell said. “Same shots, same flow. Just one of those nights.”
Prior to Friday’s game, Russell was on an offensive tear in his first six games since returning to the starting lineup averaging 21.8 points, 4.8 assists, and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 52.3% from the field and 55.3% (21-38) from three-point range. This included scoring 20-plus points in four straight games, the longest streak of his career.
“I think he had four really good games so maybe you’d expect him to have one that’s subpar,” head coach Byron Scott said. “He’s not going to go through the rest of the season where he’s going to have 20-something points games every night. He’s going to have his ups and downs.”
The last 19 games of the season should provide an ample opportunity for Russell to build on his recent success.
Like Russell, Randle has been playing at a higher level since he reclaimed his starting spot as he entered Friday’s contest averaging 13.2 points and 11.4 rebounds with 12 double-doubles in 20 games played
The 21-year-old added to that with his 26th double-double of the season with 16 points 50 percent shooting with 10 rebounds. In many ways, he was the Lakers lone bright spot offensively in what was a forgettable team shooting performance.
Randle put up a quarter-high nine points in the first quarter on 4-of-6 shooting that included a 3-pointer and a dunk on the fast break following a steal. He led the team with 11 points and seven rebounds at the half. He had seven more points in the second half and grabbed three more rebounds to give him his second double-double in his first three games of March.
“I feel it. I feel comfortable,” Randle said. “I’m just trying to build on it every game, and take it to another level.”
His steady improved as the season has worn on has been quite encouraging, and he has been without a doubt been one of the team’s bright spots. He’s currently one of 20 players in the league with 26 or more double-doubles and ranks 10th in the league in defensive rebounds per game (7.9).
With the Lakers entering Friday’s game with their three best scoring options out due to injury, there was an expected drop in production on that end of the floor. However, they struggled far more than anticipated with the team finishing with just three players in double figures and scored just 77 points on 34.1 shooting from the field.
Outside of Randle and Bass, the Lakers didn’t have any other efficient shooting performances. Their starting backcourt of Russell and Nick Young combined making just 4 of 25 shot attempts. Los Angeles did possess the upper hand in second-chance points at 17-0, but at the same time, they were a complete non-factor in the fast break with Atlanta finishing with a 27-2 edge.
“Besides our top three scorers being out than that nothing,” Scott said. “You’re missing the three guys that doing that the bulk of your scoring. We were searching tonight to try and find somebody that can give us consistency on that end of the floor. It was just one of those nights we knew going into was going to be very tough.”
Friday’s lackluster shooting performance could be chalked up as another forgettable night in what has been an overwhelmingly disappointing season.
Fast break struggles
It was an ugly offensive performance for the Lakers, but the one aspect of the game that had the biggest margin of difference was in transition as the Hawks finished with a 27-2 edge.
Much of this could be chalked up to the higher amount of misses taking 17 more shot attempts in the game, which led to more opportunities for Atlanta to race out in transition. Los Angeles had a 17-3 offensive rebound edge, but this something that Scott would have rather swapped out for fewer fast break points allowed.
“It was a 27-t0-2 tonight. That’s a big discrepancy,” Scott said. “It’s hard to win when you’re giving up 25 more points in transition.The offensive rebounds, it would be great if we were getting those and being able to score and they were still being able to get out. It’s a catch-22.”
This has been one of many issues defensively that the Lakers possess giving up the third-most fast break points per game (16.3). It’s just another aspect that they must address in the offseason.
Hawks from deep
The Lakers may have one of the league’s worst defenses, but one area that they aren’t ranked in the bottom tier in the NBA is defending against the 3-point shot holding the 12th lowest’s opponent percentage from beyond the arc.
This wasn’t the case in the first half as the Hawks were highly efficient knocking down 50 percent of their attempts (7-of-14), which played a critical part in helping build an 18-point lead heading into halftime. Atlanta did most of their damage in the second quarter hitting 5-of-8 attempts from 3-point range. They shot 55.6 percent overall from the field in the first half with 16 assists on 20 made field goals.
It continued following halftime with Atlanta holding a comfortable double-digit finishing with seven players in double-figures scoring and the 11th time in franchise history that they had eight players with at least one 3-point field goal made. They finished making 46.4 percent (46.4) of their attempts from downtown.
This only made it more difficult for Los Angeles to come back from a large deficit that given that the fact that they were already playing undermanned. In short, it was the Hawks sharp shooting in the first half that sealed the Lakers fate on Friday night.
Bob Garcia IV
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