LeBron James, Malik Monk Star as Lakers Beat Trae Young, Hawks for 4th Straight Win

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIJanuary 8, 2022

Los Angeles Lakers guard Malik Monk (11) dunks the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks in Los Angeles, Friday, Jan. 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
AP Photo/Ashley Landis

Malik Monk scored 21 of his 29 points in the first half as the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the visiting Atlanta Hawks 134-118 on Friday at Crypto.com Arena.

Monk made seven of his 12 three-pointers, including five in the first half. Lakers star LeBron James also starred with a game-high 32 points, nine assists, eight rebounds, four steals and three blocks.

Hawks point guard Trae Young, who was a game-time decision because of a lower back contusion, played after missing one contest. He had 25 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds but committed nine turnovers. L.A. took advantage of Atlanta's mistakes, scoring 28 points off turnovers.

Atlanta also welcomed back John Collins and Bogdan Bogdanovic after each were under the league's health and safety protocols. Collins had 21 points in 32 minutes, and Bogdanovic added 15 points in 27 minutes.

The 21-19 Lakers have won four straight games. The 17-21 Hawks have lost five of their last seven.


Notable Performances

Lakers F LeBron James: 32 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 blocks

Lakers PG Russell Westbrook: 9 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds

Lakers SG Malik Monk: 29 points

Lakers G Avery Bradley and Lakers G Talen Horton-Tucker: 21 points each

Lakers F Carmelo Anthony: 17 points, 7 rebounds

Hawks PG Trae Young: 25 points, 14 assists, 9 rebounds, 9 turnovers

Hawks PF John Collins: 21 points, 8 rebounds


Malik Monk Goes Off

It's no coincidence that the Lakers' recent surge coincides with the emergence of Monk, who has averaged 21.9 points over his last seven contests.

Monk has been fantastic following a five-game absence because of the league's health and safety protocols. Thanks largely to his efforts, the Lakers are treading water despite missing Anthony Davis with a sprained MCL.

Monk impacted the game outside of his three-point dominance, fielding a James pass on the fast break and finishing it for a dunk:

Spectrum SportsNet @SpectrumSN

The LeBron-Monk connection. 🤝 <a href="https://t.co/xtWmvSO1zi">pic.twitter.com/xtWmvSO1zi</a>

The former Kentucky star ultimately started 6-of-6 from the field:

Spectrum SportsNet @SpectrumSN

🔥 6 for 6 with 15 PTS for <a href="https://twitter.com/AhmadMonk?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AhmadMonk</a> 🔥 <a href="https://t.co/cTh9iWVt6L">pic.twitter.com/cTh9iWVt6L</a>

Monk kept it up late in the first half, hitting threes on back-to-back possessions:

Spectrum SportsNet @SpectrumSN

'Strictly for buckets' 💪 <a href="https://t.co/nnAblRdYpg">pic.twitter.com/nnAblRdYpg</a>

It was more of the same in the third quarter, with Stanley Johnson finding Monk for another shot from beyond the arc:

Spectrum SportsNet @SpectrumSN

IN. THE. ZONE. 🎯 <a href="https://t.co/73v7svj2nk">pic.twitter.com/73v7svj2nk</a>

Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register put it best:

Kyle Goon @kylegoon

Malik Monk is un. Conscious. Out of control.

Monk's offensive outburst helped keep the Hawks at bay after they got off to a slow start. Atlanta finally starting warming up in the second quarter, scoring 45 points in the final 16 minutes of the first half to cut the Lakers' halftime lead to 64-61.

The problem was that the rest of the Lakers picked up the slack in the third quarter, with Carmelo Anthony and Talen Horton-Tucker combining for L.A.'s final 18 points in that frame. The Lakers had a 14-point lead going into the fourth, and they never looked back.

Ultimately, Monk has become a vital part of this team and its success. L.A.'s season appeared to be on the brink as little as two weeks ago, but his play allowed the Lakers to move to 21-19 and sit sixth in the Western Conference.

Trevor Lane of Lakers Nation commented on Monk's work:

Trevor Lane @Trevor_Lane

Malik Monk is so impressive. Has grown into his role and now he’s a major weapon for the Lakers

Somehow, the Lakers signed Monk for the league minimum, but at this rate, he will be due for a significant raise next offseason. For now, though, the shooting guard is changing the storyline for the Lakers' 2021-22 campaign.


Key Hawks Players Look Good After Return From Health and Safety Protocols

This season has been a struggle for the Hawks, who have been short-handed all season because of injuries and illness.

Last year's Eastern Conference Finals runner-up is sitting just 12th in the East. When healthy, this team is capable of competing with the best the conference has to offer on any given night.

Thankfully, the Hawks are starting to get their pieces back, including Young, Collins and Bogdanovic.

Collins and Bogdanovic were of particular importance after they missed five and four games, respectively.

Collins looked good upon his return, scoring his 21 points at an efficient 8-of-17 clip in addition to grabbing eight rebounds in 32 minutes.

The spring in his step was evident as he took a Young feed and finished the play off with an emphatic slam dunk in the first quarter:

Atlanta Hawks @ATLHawks

Trae facilitates. JC finishes. <a href="https://t.co/nmgAUWKtGd">pic.twitter.com/nmgAUWKtGd</a>


He later finished a half-court lob from Young:

Bally Sports: Hawks @HawksOnBally

It would be fun to see <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TraeYoung?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TraeYoung</a> throwing halfcourt lobs to <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/JohnCollins?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#JohnCollins</a> in the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBAAllStar?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NBAAllStar</a> Game. <a href="https://t.co/HKCOmoUGxy">pic.twitter.com/HKCOmoUGxy</a>

Bogdanovic scored 15 points and made four of his nine three-pointers.

The wing's court vision was evident as he found center Onyeka Okongwu for a dunk after a screen-and-roll:

Bally Sports: Hawks @HawksOnBally

Bogi to Big O<a href="https://twitter.com/SoutheastToyota?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SoutheastToyota</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TrueToAtlanta?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TrueToAtlanta</a> <a href="https://t.co/yoxPyOjbHR">pic.twitter.com/yoxPyOjbHR</a>

The Hawks did finish at minus-25 with Bogdanovic on the floor, but that was largely a byproduct of L.A. getting hot at different points during the game.

The result may have not gone the Hawks' way, especially on the defensive end, but it's encouraging to see Atlanta finally getting its core pieces back together as it looks to turn it around in the second half of the season.


What's Next?

The Hawks will stay in town to play the Clippers on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET at Crypto.com Arena. The Lakers will host the Memphis Grizzlies later that day at 9:30 p.m.