LeBron James scored 12 of his 33 points during a breathtaking opening nine minutes for the Los Angeles Lakers, who raced to a 25-point lead and handed the Atlanta Hawks their second ugly loss in 24 hours at Staples Center, 122-101 on Sunday night.
Kobe Bryant watched from courtside as his former team used suffocating defense to fuel an outburst that gave it a 34-9 lead.
In a quarter full of highlights, James’ biggest play provided his first points. After JaVale McGee blocked Jabari Parker’s shot, James grabbed the ball, passed to Danny Green and took the return pass for a slam dunk that brought the crowd to its feet two minutes in.
James added two layups, a 3-point shot and a three-point play to help propel the Lakers to their 25-point lead with 3:17 still to play in the opening quarter.
He also fed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for consecutive baskets. James finished with 12 assists for his 11th double-double this season.
The Hawks were routed 150-101 on Saturday night by the Clippers, who played without Kawhi Leonard.
Kyle Kuzma scored 17 points in the Lakers’ 11th win in 12 games. Rajon Rondo had 15, Anthony Davis 14, Caldwell-Pope 13 and Green and Alex Caruso 11 apiece.
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Davis had five of the Lakers’ 14 blocked shots.
Trae Young scored 31 for the Hawks, who lost four of five on a swing through the West. Cam Reddish had 13 while Allen Crabbe, Parker and De’Andre Hunter each scored 11.
After falling behind by 25, the Hawks stopped the Lakers’ onslaught by going on a 13-0 run to close to 34-22. They got to 40-30 before the Lakers pulled away again. Green put an emphatic stamp on a 69-41 halftime lead when he swooped in to corral James’ missed shot for a slam dunk with 11 seconds before the buzzer.
James then hit consecutive 3-pointers for the Lakers’ first points of the second half and added a nice fallaway jumper.
Hawks: Crabbe had a four-point play in the first quarter when he hit a 3-pointer and was fouled by Troy Daniels. He made the free throw to cut the deficit to 34-20. ... The Hawks have lost three straight and six of seven.
Lakers: With Avery Bradley out, Caldwell-Pope earned a second straight start and third of the season after scoring 16 points in 99-97 victory over Sacramento on Friday night. ... Dwight Howard energized the crowd when he blocked Parker’s shot early in the second quarter. ... Bryant was shown on the big screen with 4:25 left in the first half and rose to acknowledge a standing ovation. ... James went from playing 26 minutes in a win against Golden State on Wednesday night two games ago to 38 minutes on Friday night. Coach Frank Vogel said the Lakers will take every opportunity they can to reduce his minutes. “Sometimes he’s not agreeable to that and we have to trust him and find a balance.” He played 33 minutes Sunday night.
Back at Staples Center less than 24 hours after absorbing a 49-point loss to the Clippers, Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce asked if he preferred the games were split up. “Yes,” he said. “Back-to-back on the road is tough no matter who the opponent is. Obviously you have two special teams with a lot of special talent with both of the L.A. teams. It makes it extremely difficult. However, with the way we played last night and the performance we had last night, I’m more excited about getting back on the court tonight, regardless of who the opponent is. That’s a bad taste you leave with after last night, so the remedy for it is to get back on the court and test your perseverance and your resiliency and see if we can bounce back.”
Hawks: Return home after a five-game road trip to host Milwaukee on Wednesday night.
Lakers: Host Oklahoma City on Tuesday night to finish a four-game homestand.