Lakers recover after letting lead slip away

Forrest Lee, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- For the second game in a row, the Los Angeles Lakers blew a big lead.
This time, though, they were able to save face as the Lakers held on for a 105-103 victory over the Atlanta Hawks before a sellout crowd of 18,997 at Staples Center on Sunday night.
Two free throws by Pau Gasol with six seconds remaining was the difference and allowed the Lakers to snap a two-game losing streak and extend their home winning streak to eight over the Hawks (1-2). Atlanta hasn't won at Staples since a 114-110 decision on Feb. 15, 2006.
Xavier Henry, who got his first start, led the Lakers with 18 points, but it was Gasol who bailed them out after drawing a block foul on Paul Millsap.
"We've got a lot of stuff we've got to cure," said Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni, whose club let a 15-point lead get away in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night. "For whatever reason, we're going up 15 and we're having great energy and then all of sudden we start to get soft on defense without a lot of energy played and then we get a little selfish without thinking about moving the ball. Those two things we've got to cure."
Gasol, who finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds and six assists despite sitting out much of the third quarter and almost half of the fourth because D'Antoni said he lacked energy, also blocked a Kyle Korver shot in the final two seconds to preserve the win.
"I felt good, so I wanted to take the shot," said Korver, who led Atlanta with 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting from th efield, including a perfect 6 of 6 on 3-pointers. "I'm sure when I watch film I'll have a different read, but (Gasol) did a good job of getting out of their blocking it."
Millsap, who finished with 14 points, tied the score at 103 on a bucket with 35 seconds left. However, he was called for a blocking foul 29 seconds later as Gasol drove the lane.
"We came back in the second half, but they just made a play in the end," said Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague, who finished with 14 points, six rebounds and four assists. "We had a chance to win the game. We're new right now and trying to jell together. It's only the third game of the season. We'll be fine."
Henry replaced Nick Young in the Lakers' starting lineup as D'Antoni shuffled the deck. It worked well for both players as Henry led the Lakers in scoring again and Young came off the bench to contribute 13 points in 21 minutes.
Young said he isn't bothered about not starting. Winning cures that.
"I just want to be on the court," Young said.
The Lakers relied on their 3-point shooting to open a 21-point lead in the first half. But Atlanta slowly chipped away in the second half.
The Lakers hit 8 of 13 (61.5 percent) from behind the arc by intermission as seven different players converted. The Hawks were 3 of 9 on 3-pointers.
In the first half, the Lakers shot 53.2 percent from the field (25 of 47) compared with 45.5 percent (20 of 44) for Atlanta. The Hawks missed nine of 15 free throws and the Lakers sank 4 of 7.
Overall, the Lakers shot 42.7 percent from the field to 44.4 percent for the Hawks. Los Angeles finished 9 of 25 (36 percent) on 3-pointers and Atlanta was 9 of 22 (40.9 percent).
Steve Nash added 13 points and six assists for the Lakers.
NOTES: Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer praised the performance of Teague, who averaged 20.5 points and 10.5 assists in the opening two games. "Jeff's been great. I think we're looking for him to just continue to improve and being engaged on both ends. I think 20 and 10 is great," Budenholzer said. ... The Hawks will meet the Sacramento Kings in the second game of their three-game road trip on Tuesday. They are at Denver on Thursday before returning home to face the Orlando Magic on Saturday. ... Los Angeles tips off a three-game trip on Tuesday at Dallas. On Thursday, the Lakers visit Houston in their first meeting with Dwight Howard since he bolted to the Rockets during the offseason. They play Friday at New Orleans.

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