The last time the Los Angeles Lakers were a .500 team was December 28, 2012. Sunday’s 99-98 win over the Atlanta Hawks put them at 30-30 on the year, and every victory they claim is another step toward making the postseason.
Since the All-Star break, the Lakers are 5-1 and have played with a new energy. That energy was apparent Sunday night, as they jumped out to a 16-8 lead by the game’s first timeout.
They were scoring quickly in transition and executing well in the half court, but the problem was that the defense didn’t play with the same efficiency. An 11-point lead was cut to four by the end of the first quarter, and it was a sign to come that Atlanta wouldn’t go away easy.
As well as L.A. began this game, that start was long forgotten to begin the second. The Hawks were turning defense into offense, and they had stolen all momentum that the home team once had. Turnovers were a problem for the Lakers the entire contest, and Atlanta was able to take full advantage.
Much like the first quarter, the third began with L.A. playing an efficient, up-tempo brand of basketball. But also like the first, it ended with the Hawks keeping things close. A 13-2 Atlanta run helped the Hawks stay in it, and the Lakers led by just six heading into the final 12 minutes.
As you’d expect in a battle of runs, the fourth quarter proved to be the most competitive stretch of the game. Twenty-one total turnovers for the Lakers was nearly catastrophic, but with a playoff-like atmosphere filling the Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers walked away with smiles on their faces and their confidence as high as ever.