The Los Angeles Lakers won in dramatic fashion Sunday night over the Atlanta Hawks 99-98 to secure a .500 record for the first time since Dec. 28. Kobe Bryant scored 34 points to lead the Lakers, including 11 in the fourth quarter. With just nine seconds left, Bryant drove the ball into the lane and through Josh Smith for a layup and a one-point lead. Guard Steve Blake stole a Josh Smith pass on the ensuing Hawk’s possession to run out the clock.
After one of the slowest starts in franchise history, the Lakers have been up and down since new coach Mike D’Antoni took over. The Lakers last had a winning record on November 20 when they beat the Brooklyn Nets in D’Antoni’s first game with the team. The win moved them to 6-5 at the time, which abruptly ended after a quick six-game losing streak. Though Pau Gasol is still out due to injury, the Lakers have played much better of late looking to climb their way out of the bottom of the Western Conference.
Kobe Bryant has been a major reason behind the team’s recent resurgence, which was well shown in his dominating performance Sunday. Bryant controlled the tempo late in the game, as well as outplaying the younger and bigger Josh Smith.
“I just had to attack,” Bryant said after the game. “I wanted to attack and go right at them. Take the game to them. Be aggressive. Be physical. And it worked out.”
Steve Nash added 15 points and 10 assists during the Lakers 13th win in 18 games. Dwight Howard also had a double-double, with 11 points and 15 rebounds. Howard continues to lead the league in rebounding though his time in Los Angeles has been criticized by practically everyone around Lakers nation and the NBA. The Lakers win Sunday has given fans a reason to hope for a late playoff push. If anyone could climb up the rankings quickly, it would be a team filled with stars and big time performers.
The Atlanta Hawks had won four consecutive games before losing two straight coming into the contest Sunday, but Al Horford’s 24 points were not enough to end the skid. Josh Smith also added 19 points in the losing effort as the Hawks move on to Denver to take on the Nuggets Monday night.
The Lakers, now at an even 30-30 record, next take the floor Tuesday night against Kevin Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder.The Thunder beat Chris Paul and the Clippers Sunday 108-104. Oklahoma City leads the season series 2-1 over the Lakers, but an upset victory will give Los Angeles a winning record for the first time since Thanksgiving.