The Lakers’ smallball offense worked almost perfectly, while Malik Monk (and several other role players) stepped up in a major way as the Purple and Gold beat Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks. 134-118 for one of their best wins. of the season.
The Lakers had four goalscorers with over 20 points – LeBron James, Avery Bradley, Monk and Talen Horton-Tucker – and the team seemed as comfortable on offense as the entire season.
The Lakers took a double-digit lead in the first half as their smallball strategy dominated Atlanta until a late run in the second quarter reduced the lead to just three at halftime.
As the Hawks sold out to take out James and Russell Westbrook, the two LA superstars combined for 14 pre-halftime assists (!) As Bradley and Monk took turns on fire, with 16 and 21 points respectively in the first half. Both goalies were white-hot from long distance early, combining to go 8-10 from the 3-point line in the first two periods.
LeBron and Russ both started off cold, but as Westbrook struggled through the night, The King caught fire late to take out the Hawks, scoring 17 in the fourth quarter only, finishing with a record 32 points. Russ missed another triple-double before committing a foul with just under five minutes left, finishing with 9 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists, and a team record plus-minus of +22.
James also added four interceptions to overtake Alvin Robertson for 10th place on the NBA’s all-time steal list, according to Lakers PR (h / t to our own Cooper Halpern).
But it was, as has often been the case lately, Monk who shone the most. The third-year goaltender finished with a high of 29 points – almost reaching his career high of 36 – and has continued his hot game lately. Entering Friday, the former Charlotte Hornet has averaged 20.7 points per game in six games since returning from NBA health and safety protocols at Christmas. He punctuated that performance by flying for a stellar recoil dunk on three Bradley misfires.
Talen Horton-Tucker also had a phenomenal night with 21 points as his confidence and passing ability looked as good as at any point in the season. He provided a few highlighting plays in the third quarter with a monster tomahawk dunk, then a nice go-oop to James soon after.
The downsides of the Lakers’ approach with a small ball from the defensive end were obvious, however, especially as Anthony Davis stays clear of a sprained knee and Trevor Ariza is trying to regain form after surgery. at the ankle and COVID-19 has derailed most of its season at this point. The Hawks ‘pick-and-roll game feasted on the Lakers’ undersized defensive front, as Young finished with 25 points and 14 assists while John Collins, Clint Capela and Los Angeles native Onyeka Okongwu, have all marked double digits.
Although the Lakers played as well as expected on offense, it took them all four quarters to get away from the Hawks completely, who drove several runs to stay in the game until they finally ran out. late gasoline.
Still, if you’re looking for reasons to be optimistic about the Lakers 2021-22, tonight has provided plenty. After so much chaos to start the season as Frank Vogel and the coaching staff faced a myriad of injuries and inconsistencies to find a roster that works, the Lakers seem to have found a solution, at least for now. .
With James in the middle and Stanley Johnson providing a capable winged defense by his side in the starting zone, the Lakers are now able to space the floor for LeBron and Russ. Bradley, whose contract was secured earlier today, went from signing emergency depth to an unexpectedly invaluable role in his second stint with the Lakers as his ability to make the right cut at the right moment – as well as knocking down enough outside shots for the defenses to respect him – makes him a much-needed adjustment alongside James and Westbrook.
Monk, meanwhile, looks like the steal of the offseason as he continues to realize the scoring potential that made him the 11th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft outside of Kentucky. The return of former SoCal high school hoops legend Stanley Johnson, meanwhile, provides much-needed wing defense to give the Lakers time to get Ariza and Davis – their first scheduled starting zone that didn’t. not yet played a minute next to each other – get back to speed.
Additionally, the eccentric bench unit of Carmelo Anthony, Austin Reaves, and THT also seems increasingly comfortable in their roles, able to provide the ground spacing and ball management needed for the attack keeps buzzing when their numbers are called. While LA’s defense still has plenty of holes, their offense has been so good under the new smallball approach that it might not matter against most opponents.
Lakers are 5-0 when LeBron starts center and average 127 points in those games
– Laker Cinema Room (@LakerFilmRoom) January 8, 2022
The win means the team are still undefeated (4-0) with their new starting lineup of James, Monk, Bradley, Westbrook and Johnson, and have won four games in a row – their longest winning streak of the season. , and five of their last six – to jump to 21-19 on the year.
They will now have a day off before welcoming the Memphis Grizzlies to The Crypt on Sunday.
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