It was the best of halves. It was the worst of halves.
The Los Angeles Lakers played two extremely different 24-minute halves in Monday's 114-100 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
In the first half, LA rode its two big men inside the paint, and the results were spectacular. Jordan Hill led all scorers with 13 points and six rebounds in 14 first-half minutes. Pau Gasol added 11 points and five rebounds, and the duo shot 10 of 11 from the field.
Kobe Bryant was not especially sharp at the start and committed four turnovers in the first 12 minutes. However, Bryant added six points, two assists, two steals and a rebound, and the Lakers led by eight points after the first quarter.
For the final three quarters, Bryant made one of his nine shot attempts and missed his only free throw attempt of the game. On a positive note, he only turned the ball over once and delivered four more assists. That was not nearly enough, though, as the Lakers fell asleep on defending the three-point line in the second half.
“We did not compete the second half,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said after the game. “They upped their intensity. We didn’t.”
In the second half, the Lakers allowed the Atlanta Hawks to score 67 points and shoot 50 percent from behind the arc. Atlanta made eight of 16 from long range in the second half, and the Lakers failed to close on shooters like Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague.
“I didn’t think we competed tonight—not the second half,” D’Antoni said with frustration.
Offensively, the Lakers continued to get high percentage looks from Hill and Gasol, but the duo only attempted six shots—making five of them—in the final 24 minutes.
“Without having a point guard, the ball didn’t move,” D’Antoni tried to explain why Hill and Gasol were not provided more opportunities later in the game.
Bryant may not have played up to expectations, but Nick Young was a consistent perimeter threat for the Lakers. Young finished with a game-high 23 points on only 14 shot attempts. Young shot five of seven on 3-pointers and was attempting to ignite a rally. Unfortunately, the rest of his teammates were zero for 14 on three-point attempts on the night.
Monday night served as yet another reminder that the Lakers need a point guard and that this team cannot afford to drop its defensive energy for even a single quarter.
The Lakers will try to improve at Memphis on Tuesday night before catching a flight back to the Southland.