For one half, the Lakers looked unstoppable. They scored 64 first half points, eight Lakers made threes in the first 24 minutes, and they shot over 50% from the field. But a Jekyll and Hyde Lakers squad collapsed down the stretch, losing every bit of their once 21-point lead, but hung on for a 105-103 victory that pulled them back to .500.
After allowing the Hawks to tie the game with 35 seconds remaining, the Lakers faced a do-or-die situation with a basket absolutely necessary. They turned to Pau Gasol, who left a hook shot short, but the offensive rebounding machine himself Jordan Hill saved the Lakers, corralling the rebound with 17 seconds left and giving the Lakers one more opportunity. This time, Steve Nash came off a Gasol screen and laid a pass off to the rolling Spaniard, who recognized the help in the form of Paul Millsap coming and laid of what appeared to be a possible game-winning assist. The officials, however, ruled a blocking foul on Millsap and wiped off the basket on the floor before reviewing it, where they confirmed their decision, giving one and one free throws to Gasol. The Lakers big man knocked down both free throws, then blocked the game-tying jumper by Kyle Korver, sealing the deal on the Lakers second win of the season.
Gasol finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds, but struggled in the second half. Still, he hit the big baskets when they mattered the most and made the biggest defensive play of the night. Xavier Henry, who got his first start of the season, led all Lakers scorers with 18 points, while Steve Nash joined them in double figures with 13 of his own. Nash also had 6 assists and 3 rebounds, looking the best he has yet this season in purple and gold. Steve Blake also handed out 7 assists and grabbed 5 rebounds himself.
Off the bench, Nick Young provided big minutes in his first action as a non-starter, pouring in 13 points and finishing with 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Chris Kaman was the only other Laker in double figures with 10. Still, all 11 Lakers scored on the night with Jordan Hill’s 6 points in just 14 minutes being the fewest. Wesley Johnson added his name to the list of standout performances tonight as he played fantastic defense in his 21 minutes, finishing with 3 blocks, 7 rebounds, and 9 points.
The Lakers got off to a red-hot shooting night, canning 8 of 11 threes by halftime and shooting 53% through the first two quarters. Their lead was as big as 21 points midway through the 2nd quarter and the Lakers looked to be in command. But they were never able to put the Hawks away as the lead hung around 10-14 points for much of the third quarter. In the fourth, Atlanta came roaring back thanks in part to Kyle Korver’s red-hot shooting night. Korver was 6 of 6 from deep, half of those coming in the final quarter. Paul Millsap’s jumper from near the elbow tied the game with 35 seconds remaining, setting up for the wild finish.
The Lakers bench once against shined bright as they had 48 points, 28 rebounds, 11 assists, and 5 blocks. Hill’s effort and hustle in the fourth quarter not only created the game-winning free throws for Gasol, but also saved the Lakers numerous times. Farmar’s 5 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists as well as Kaman’s 10 points and 5 rebounds only tell part of the story as their energy changed the game, as has been the case throughout this young season.
Los Angeles now has their first real road trip of the season as they travel to Dallas on Tuesday, face the Rockets Thursday, and finish up in New Orleans Friday. Their game against the Mavericks tips off at 8:30 eastern.