Lakers can’t handle short-handed Hawks in 91-86 loss
What a bizarre night it was back in November, the Lakers pulling off an upset in Atlanta while Nick Young proclaimed himself the best long-distance shooter of all time.
There were no such theatrics Sunday in the rematch. No laughs. No good times for the Lakers. No victory.
The Atlanta Hawks are beating everybody in the Eastern Conference and did the same to the Lakers, 91-86, despite resting three starters and losing a fourth early in the game at Staples Center.
If the Lakers can’t beat the Knicks (see last Thursday) or a shell of the Hawks’ team, who can they beat?
The answer, as many already know, is not many teams.
The Lakers are now 17-48, on target for their worst season ever.
Coach Byron Scott found fault with a lack of physicality, saying the Lakers did a “terrible job” of setting screens, the latter a season-long problem in his opinion.
“Maybe they’re scared of contact, I don’t know. [I’m] serious,” Scott said. “I’ve asked them. Some of it is the guard’s responsibility to make sure they set the guy up but when he does, the big [man] has to take the responsibility of setting screens.”
Said forward-center Ed Davis: “It’s something that we need to get better at.”
And from big man Tarik Black: “If he’s saying we’re not setting enough screens, then we need to get better at it.”
The Lakers appeared to get a break when Atlanta rested starters Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, and DeMarre Carroll. Then Kyle Korver left in the second quarter because of a broken nose from, fittingly, an illegal screen by Davis.
But Dennis Schroder, typically a backup, had 24 points and 10 assists as the Hawks’ starting point guard. Shelvin Mack added 18 points and Atlanta improved to 52-14, a full 10 games ahead of second-place Cleveland in the East.
One of the reserves who was promoted Sunday was Kent Bazemore, a member of the Lakers for a brief stretch last season before signing a two-year, $4-million contract with Atlanta last summer. He had 11 points against his former team.
Like plenty of people, Scott respected the attitude of the Hawks, short-handed or not.
“They play the game the way it should be played. They play without an agenda,” he said. “The bottom line for them is winning.”
Jordan Clarkson didn’t shoot the greatest, making four of 13 shots and scoring 10 points, but he had a career-high eight rebounds and added six assists before fouling out.
The rookie keeps logging a lot of minutes, trying to add subtle improvements to his game.
“This is great for him,” Scott said beforehand. “He needs to keep learning as he goes along each day, what he can do in this league and what people are going to do against him.
“The best thing about the kid — when he falls, he gets back up. He doesn’t lay down. He just gets back up and he just keeps playing hard.”
Times correspondent Eric Pincus contributed to this report.
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