Lakers 90, Hawks 83
ATLANTA (AP)—The roar during pregame introductions revealed that many in a rare Atlanta sellout came to see Kobe Bryant.
The applause for the Los Angeles Lakers’ star continued after the game—in the Hawks’ locker room.
Bryant, mostly quiet through three quarters, scored nine straight fourth-quarter points to lead Los Angeles to a 90-83 victory over Atlanta on Monday night.
“You’ve got to give it to him,” said Atlanta’s Joe Johnson, who matched Bryant’s 27 points but couldn’t equal his fourth-quarter impact.
“He made some great shots down the stretch, and I was draped all over him for some of them,” Johnson said.
Eleven of Bryant’s 27 points came in the final period.
“He’s a great player; he’s one of the best players who has played our game,” said Atlanta coach Mike Woodson. “When he makes a 27-footer, falling away in the corner, you’ve got to come back on the other end and execute your offense.”
The Hawks were only 4-of-9 from the free throw line in the final period.
Bryant said he didn’t look at the game as a scoring contest against Johnson.
“To me individually it doesn’t mean much at this stage of my career; I’ve played in so many of those individual battles,” Bryant said. “It’s more just, ‘What can I do to help us win the game?’
“A couple years ago I probably would have tried to end up with 25 points in the fourth quarter. Now it’s not what’s important. Once I got on a roll, saw they were double and triple-teaming, I was able to use myself as a decoy.”
“It’s a big difference in our team, and that’s the understanding of when enough is enough,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “And when they started throwing extra bodies at people, there was open opportunities for other guys.”
The Lakers swept the Hawks for the first time in seven years and improved to 3-2 on their eight-game road trip with their second straight win.
Bryant wagged his index finger at Atlanta fans after his fourth straight jumper in his hot streak, which left the Lakers with a 77-71 lead. Bryant didn’t need to tease; it seemed most of the 19,600 fans in Atlanta’s sixth sellout of the season were cheering for him, anyway.
The Hawks, led by Zaza Pachulia’s inside scoring, pulled within three points three times early in the period, but they came no closer than six after Bryant’s hot streak.
Johnson made only 10 of 26 shots. Josh Smith scored 20 points and Pachulia added 14.
Only two players joined Bryant in double figures for the Lakers. Odom had 15 points and 18 rebounds, and Bynum added another double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
The Lakers, who beat Atlanta 106-95 at home on Dec. 8, completed their first season sweep of the Hawks since the 1999-00 season. Even in recent seasons, when the Hawks bottomed out with 13- and 26-win totals, the Lakers managed no better than a split of the two games.
Said Jackson before the game: “This game is a little space in time. I’m always concerned about Atlanta. We don’t play well here.”
The Lakers didn’t play their best early but still led almost from the start. Smith opened the game with a reverse jam—his first of four flashy slam dunks in the game—but the Lakers quickly pulled even on a tip by Bynum and never again trailed.
Bryant was held to nine points on 3-for-8 shooting in the first half, but the Lakers led 40-31 as Johnson was only 4-for-13 from the field for 10 points.
The Lakers, who held a big lead of 11 points late in the first half, led 55-45 in the third quarter before the Hawks answered with eight straight points, including a 3-pointer by Josh Childress.
Bryant hit a 3 late in the quarter as the Lakers led 62-57 entering the final period.
Courtside celebrities included actors Martin Lawrence and Tim Allen. … Lakers F Kwame Brown, from Glynn Academy in Brunswick, Ga., missed his 18th straight game with a left ankle sprain. … The Lakers were 6-for-6 on free throws in the fourth quarter.