On Monday evening, the Los Angeles Lakers take the court in Atlanta against the Hawks. For the third game of their road trip, the Lakers will stick with the same starting lineup that started the first two roadies. With Kobe Bryant getting his first win on Saturday, the hope is clean up the turnovers, improve the defense and build momentum.
Against the Hawks, Bryant will play point guard, so with regards to cleaning up turnovers, the ball is in his hands. Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said he was hopeful that Jordan Farmar would return and go straight into the starting lineup, but Farmar’s torn hamstring will not be examined until the Lakers return home from the road trip. Steve Blake is expected to be out longer than Farmar, and Steve Nash’s return remains clouded in question marks.
To improve defense, the Lakers changed around their lineup, and Jordan Hill returned to the starting five following a spell sitting on the bench. Along with added toughness, Hill, who attended high school in Atlanta, helps in the rebounding department. Hill’s strength is offensive rebounding, but he has helped balance the defensive floor for Pau Gasol.
Gasol has been the focus of off-court discussions involving trades and general dissatisfaction. As the Lakers were set to depart on the four-game road trip, Gasol opened up and shared his belief that his ineffectiveness partially derived from the system being run.
After D’Antoni reportedly held a team meeting on Friday morning, that malcontent attitude appeared to have disappeared in the wake of Friday’s embarrassing loss in Oklahoma City. Noticably, Gasol started to dive to the basket more and fight his way into the low post. Whether or not he entirely has his coach’s blessings to set up in a stationary position near the basket, Gasol is being allowed to operate in an area he is comfortable.
The confidence on the offensive end seemed to spark the Spaniard on the defensive end, as he made four blocks in the Lakers’ narrow win over the Bobcats. The most notable of those four blocks came as time expired, and Gasol pounded his chest with confident emotion.
For the Lakers to build momentum, Gasol needs to integrate himself into the offense and use his length on defense. It may not have looked perfect, but Saturday’s win against the Bobcats was a start.
On Monday, the Lakers at Hawks tips off at 4:30 pm PST, and the Lakers will hope to build on Saturday's win.