Playing their third game in four nights in three different cities all of which were on the road and on the tail-end of a back-to-back, the Los Angeles Lakers were never meant to beat the 3-0 Atlanta Hawks.
On Wednesday at the Phillips Arena in Atlanta, the Lakers beat the odds and claimed their first road victory with an impressive 123-116 victory. For starters, Timofey Mozgov missed the game with a left eye contusion, so 19-year-old Ivica Zubac stepped in for his first ever NBA start.
The rookie picked up three fouls in the first quarter and entered the halftime intermission with four fouls in fewer than 10 minutes. Dwight Howard and the Hawks jumped out to a 37-28 lead in the first quarter, as Tim Hardaway Jr. caught fire early and scored 14 of his 26 points in the first quarter. To balance Hardaway's bench output, the Lakers turned to Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson scored 12 of his 16 points in the first half.
Despite a 1-10 start from beyond the arc in the first half, the Lakers managed to stay within striking distance of the Hawks. LA finally found its range and hit 8-12 from three-point land in the second half, which helped explain why the Hawks got outscored 72-56 in the second half.
In addition to the hot second half shooting as a team, Lou Williams carried the Lakers to victory late in the contest. Playing about 30 miles away from his former high school in Snellville, Georgia, Williams scored 16 of his 18 points in the final quarter to lead the Lakers' rally.
Riding Williams' hot hand, playmaking ability and defensive activity, the Lakers outscored the Hawks 33-22 over the final 12 minutes. The 30-year-old made five of his final six shots, including two three-pointers, passed off three assists and claimed two steals in the final, deciding quarter.
Most importantly, Williams didn’t turn the basketball over, as the Lakers won the turnover battle 18-9 on the night.
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"Some of the shots Lou hit, he just bailed us out honestly," Lakers coach Luke Walton, who claimed the first road win of his career, told Spectrum Sportsnet cameras after the game.
Walton added, "D'Angelo [Russell] in the whole third (quarter), that's the way we see him playing the point guard position. He was in control of the game, and it wasn't just from scoring. It was the plays he was calling. He was getting people touches. He had the defense guessing where he was going. That was good to see."
Trailing by nine points at the break, Russell scored nine points in the third quarter, but he also blocked two shots and claimed three assists, as he played all 12 minutes of the period. Russell finished with 23 points, eight assists, four rebounds three blocks and a steal. The 20-year-old’s play sparked the comeback that Williams ignited into the team's first road victory.
The Lakers improved to 2-3 on the season and next host the Golden State Warriors on Friday night at Staples Center.
Notes: Howard finished with 31 points and 11 rebounds and led those statistical categories in the game. Larry Nance Jr. put the game away with an emphatic dunk and continued to impress on both ends of the court with 14 points, seven rebounds, two steals, one block and one assist in only 26 minutes.