After upsetting the Clippers on opening night, the Lakers were blown out by the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday. The Lakers had a chance to beat the San Antonio Spurs, who were playing without Tim Duncan, but lost in the closing minutes.
Center-forward Al Horford is an Eastern Conference All-Star and a difficult matchup for the Lakers.
He doesn't have the size of Pau Gasol, but he's an athletic, mobile rebounder and defender. So far this season he's averaging 16.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2.5 blocks a game.
Gasol is the Lakers' leading scorer and rebounder at 15.7 points and 10.3 rebounds.
The Lakers need a strong night from Gasol against an Atlanta front line that includes newcomer Paul Millsap, who has also started the season well by averaging 17.5 points a game.
Jeff Teague has been an early force for the Hawks, averaging 20.5 points, 10.5 assists and 2.5 steals during the team's first two games.
The Hawks aren't much of a defensive unit but the Lakers might have a difficult time on their end keeping Teague from taking over the game.
The Lakers need at least one of the three to hit outside shots and open up the Lakers' offense.
The Lakers haven't played their best basketball since opening night. The Hawks present a real opportunity for another win without Bryant.
While it's still not clear when the team's star guard will return, every early victory they get while he's recovering from the Achilles' tendon injury could bolster the team's chances at a playoff spot months down the road.
A 2-2 start in six nights to start the season would be a successful week for the Lakers.