Even in the seasons when the Los Angeles Lakers were struggling, their fans came out in droves when the team visited Atlanta. Often there were enough gold and purple hats and shirts in the crowd to make it seem like a Lakers’ home game.
Another similar scene could be on display Sunday when the Lakers make their only appearance of the season at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena. Only this time the displaced Lakers fans have plenty to be happy about.
The Lakers, who added Anthony Davis to the lineup over the offseason, entered Saturday tied with the Milwaukee Bucks for the best record in the NBA. Los Angeles has won its past six games, including a 113-110 win over the Miami Heat on Friday.
Los Angeles has won 13 straight games away from home. The Lakers gave Miami its first home loss of the season and have their longest road winning streak since the 1971-72 team won 16 straight away from home during a record 33-game winning streak.
The Hawks are in the throes of a rebuilding season. Atlanta is tied with the New York Knicks for the worst record in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks lost 110-100 to the Indiana Pacers on Friday in Indianapolis and have dropped three straight.
The two clubs split their two meetings in 2018-19, with each winning on their own home court. Earlier this season, the Lakers defeated the Hawks 122-101 on Nov. 17 in Los Angeles.
LeBron James is having another stellar season for L.A., averaging 25.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 10.8 assists, but Davis leads the team in scoring (27.4 points) and rebounds (9.2), along with 2.6 blocks.
The Lakers may be battling some fatigue. The Atlanta stop is the third one in a five-city trip that concludes with games in Indianapolis and Milwaukee. And Los Angeles had to slug it out against the Heat.
“It was like a heavyweight bout,” James said. “Like the old days, the old boxing Foreman and Ali-type atmosphere, type rhythm, type physicality.”
Atlanta is led by second-year guard Trae Young, averaging 27.7 points and 8.6 assists. Veteran Jabari Parker averages 16.1 points and has filled the scoring void left by the suspension of forward John Collins, who is eligible to return on Dec. 23. First-round pick De’Andre Hunter (12.8) has provided a surprising offensive lift.
The Hawks have suffered from periods of offensive blackouts. They missed their first 13 3-point shots against the Pacers and trailed by 15 at the half before roaring back to make it a three-point game in the third quarter.
“I was just proud of our guys and the way they competed, got back into the game, the effort they showed on the defensive end,” coach Lloyd Pierce said. “We just couldn’t get enough stops and we couldn’t capitalize on the stops in the fourth quarter. A lot of empty possessions offensively. Tough.”
The Lakers have dealt with some injuries this season. Avery Bradley (hairline fracture, right leg), Davis (right shoulder soreness) and Rajon Rondo (left hamstring strain) continue to play. DeMarcus Cousins (right knee rehab) and Kyle Kuzma (left ankle sprain) are still out.
The Hawks are as healthy as they’ve been all year. The only player unavailable is Collins, who has three more games to serve on his suspension for violating the NBA’s drug policy.
–Field Level Media