The Lakers look for consecutive wins on their longest road trip in nearly two decades when they visit the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.
Los Angeles (29-19) is 2-2 on an eight-game road swing, its longest since December 1989. Bryant has only played three of the four games—he received a one-game league suspension for hitting San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili on Jan. 28, and missed the Lakers’ 99-94 loss to New York on Tuesday.
Bryant has averaged 41.0 points in Los Angeles’ two wins, but scored just 22 points on 7-for-25 shooting from the field in a loss to Indiana. He went 14-of-26 from the field and finished with 39 points to outduel Gilbert Arenas and Washington in a 118-102 win for the Lakers on Saturday.
“At this point in my career, it’s not something that really excites me,” Bryant said of the one-on-one duel with Arenas, who scored a franchise-record 60 against the Lakers earlier in the season. “What’s exciting is coming into this building after we dropped a game last night, and coming here and playing well.”
Los Angeles had lost four of its last five away from home—and four of its last five overall—before Saturday’s victory. The Lakers shot 51.9 percent from the field, their third-highest output on the road and best since shooting 52.3 percent against Sacramento on Jan. 4.
After playing the Hawks (18-28), the Lakers finish their trip against Detroit, Toronto and Cleveland, all teams with winning records.
The Lakers beat Atlanta 106-95 at home on Dec. 8, a game Bryant sat out because of a right ankle sprain. He averaged 38.0 points in two games against the Hawks in 2005-06 and has averaged 22.7 points in 14 career games against Atlanta.
Bryant also has scored at least 27 points in his last five games at Philips Arena.
The Hawks, meanwhile, are playing some of their best basketball of the season. They won for the fifth time in seven games after defeating New Jersey 101-99 in overtime on Sunday. Former Laker Tyronn Lue hit a 23-footer at the buzzer to give Atlanta the victory on Sunday after they blew a chance to win the game in regulation.
That gave the Hawks their first three-game road winning streak since December 2000. They’ll be looking for their third win in four home games.
“This was a big win for our team,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. “From a coaching standpoint it’s nice to see us pull through like we did, but we still have a long way to go.”
“We didn’t give up,” said Smith, who also had 10 rebounds. “We didn’t stop fighting.”
Johnson has scored at least 30 points in all five Hawks’ victories during this stretch. He had 30 points in the loss to Los Angeles in December.