UPDATE: The Hawks have recalled rookie point guard Dennis Schröder from the D-League, and reassigned Jared Cunningham to the Bakersfield Jam.
Date: December 16, 2013
Tip-Off Time: 7:30 PM ET
TV Channel: SportSouth (Local in Atlanta), NBA League Pass
Radio: 92.9 FM (Atlanta Flagship), Atlanta Hawks Radio Network Affiliates
Live Stream: League Pass Broadband
Greetings, Hawks fans! It’s a bit of a holiday in Hawks land, as Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers are set to visit Philips Arena for their one and only time during the 2013-2014 season. To be fair, this Lakers team doesn’t have nearly the cache that most versions do, but with Kobe back in the lineup after his achilles tear, there will be a lot of extra eyes on tonight’s action.
The Lakers enter tonight’s game with a -2.6 net rating on the season, and that negative disparity is almost chiefly because of their below-average defense. LA has the 22nd-ranked defense in the league this season, allowing 103.8 points per 100 possessions, and while many believe that Kobe will fix all ills, his defensive abilities have slipped vastly in recent years.
Everything begins and ends with Kobe, however, and I presume that DeMarre Carroll will get the full-time assignment when he’s on the court. The “Mamba” has certainly not been his old self through his first 4 appearances, averaging just 13.5 points on 43.9% shooting and 20% from beyond the arc, but with a full day off since their last game, it’s reasonable to conclude that he’ll be a few ticks better every time he plays.
Up front, Pau Gasol is still the weapon of choice for the Lakers, even though he’s had his share of controversy with head coach Mike D’Antoni. Gasol, much like Kobe, has slipped statistically, as he is down to 14.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, but he’ll almost surely draw the full attention of either Al Horford (when he’s playing center) or Paul Millsap (if he’s not).
Aside from the Kobe/Pau duo, the Lakers have been known for exactly one thing this season, and that is hoisting the 3-ball. With a group of guys that includes Nick Young (lol) and Jodie Meeks, LA is currently 2nd in the league in 3-point attempts (25.7 per game) and they are converting them with great success with a 4th-best 39.1% from beyond the arc. That’s not a great statistical match-up for the Hawks, who are below-average in defending the 3, and you can believe that it will be a “point of emphasis” during Coach Budenholzer’s pregame this evening.
Another key for the Hawks will be the play of Jeff Teague. This is the second straight “favorable” match-up for Teague, and the Lakers are virtually without a point guard of consequence in the absence of Steve Blake. I can’t imagine Teague will have any trouble (at all) getting into the paint at will in this game, but he is now shooting just 40% on the year (and it’s worse than that recently) while his production wanes a bit. The Lakers could be the antidote.
Kyle Korver continued his streak with a 93rd straight game with a made 3-pointer on Saturday night, and the sharpshooter will again be aiming to extend his NBA record tonight. The Lakers are in the top-10 against the 3 this season (allowing just 34.1%), but Korver should get every opportunity (5+ attempts, I believe) to keep the mojo going.
Las Vegas has opened the Hawks as approximately a 5-point favorite in the game, giving credence to the home-court edge, as well as factoring in what many (including myself) believe about the actual ability of the Lakers. To be honest, this would be a disappointing loss for Atlanta if it happened, and while nothing is a must-win at this juncture, it would be fantastic to get the bad taste of Saturday night’s debacle out of the mouths of everyone.
Stay tuned for updates throughout the night, and a full recap to follow.