Lakers dominate hapless Hawks

The start of the post-break schedule looked a lot like the week prior to last weekend. The Lakers pummeled the Hawks 104-80 at the Staples Center on Tuesday, sending the Hawks to their fourth loss in their last five games.

Three of those Atlanta defeats were by at least 15 points, and it doesn't get any easier. The Hawks' continue their season-long seven-game road trip at Phoenix Wednesday night before playing at Golden State on Friday, Portland on Sunday and Denver on Monday.

The Lakers (39-19) provided the Hawks (34-22) a chance to prove their mettle against the two-time defending NBA champs. Instead Atlanta posted a no show against the Lake Show.

"They took over," Hawks center Al Horford said. "They dominated on both ends. We really have some soul-searching to do as a team. It's discouraging. We had a great practice yesterday, and to come out like that, it's frustrating."
The Lakers took it to the Hawks early and they had no response. Los Angles raced out to an 8-0 lead and enjoyed a double-digit advantage for the final 29 minutes of game time.

The Lakers had caused worry among their demanding fan base by losing three consecutive games before the break. Atlanta's lax defense and disjointed offense were just what they needed to get on track.

Atlanta, slow-footed on defense, scrambled as the Lakers crisply passed the ball for open shots. Los Angeles was 24 of of 48 from the field with 15 assists through three quarters.

Nothing came easy for the Hawks, who forced challenged jump shots and missed open looks while shooting 30 of 82. They couldn't finish fast breaks, either--forward Josh Smith twice threw wayward passes that bounced hard off the backboard.
Lakers star Kobe Bryant scored 20 points while taking just 11 shots and playing a leisurely 26 minutes. Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 14 points.

Atlanta, down 28-15 after a quarter, briefly rallied to get within 35-27. But the Hawks were scoreless for nearly four minutes in the second quarter as Los Angeles scored 14 straight points to lead 49-27.

Atlanta trailed 54-33 at halftime and by as many as 29 points in the second half. Its regulars watched all but the opening moments of the fourth quarter from the bench.

The Hawks couldn't take advantage even when they got some breaks.

Officials awarded them the ball after they threw it out of bounds in the third quarter, then called a questionable flagrant foul on Bryant. But Smith missed both free throws, and Mike Bibby missed an open 3-pointer on the ensuing possession.

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