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Lakers

In Atlanta, Lakers get a third chance to win two straight

Al Horford, Kobe Bryant

Hawks forward Al Horford pumps his fist in front of Lakers star Kobe Bryant after scoring a basket during a Dec. 16, 2013, game in Atlanta.

(John Bazemore / Associated Press)

The Lakers (3-15) have yet to win two in a row this season. They’ll get their third chance on Friday when they visit the Atlanta Hawks (12-9).

After winning 60 games last season, second-best in the NBA, the Hawks have taken a step backward this year -- and though they have a winning record, they’re currently in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Having announced his plans to retire at the end of the season, Kobe Bryant will make his final appearance in Atlanta, in front of what is usually a very pro-Bryant/Lakers crowd.

The Hawks may not have Tiago Splitter (hip), while the Lakers are healthy, heading into the third night of an eight-game road trip.

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Key matchup

The Hawks boast a pair of talented big men in Paul Millsap and Al Horford.

Though both are somewhat undersized, they’re still a very capable duo.  Millsap is Atlanta’s leading scorer at 18.4 points a game, along with 9.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.9 steals. Horford is averaging 15.8 points with 7.3 rebounds.

The Lakers will counter with Julius Randle and Roy Hibbert. Randle collected 19 rebounds in the Lakers win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday. He’ll draw a tougher matchup on Friday.

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The 7-foot-2 Hibbert has a size advantage over Horford, who just barely hits 6-foot-10.

Randle is averaging 11.7 points and 9.3 rebounds a game; Hibbert is at 7.9 and 6.8, respectively.

X-factor

The Hawks have offensive threats in Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Dennis Schroder and former Lakers guard/forward Kent Bazemore.

On the other hand, Bryant scored 31 points against the Wizards, shooting 41.7% from the field (10-24) -- well over his season average of 31.1%. The Lakers need either a more efficient Bryant -- or one who shoots fewer shots.

Jordan Clarkson has been a steady source of offense for the Lakers this season, at a more efficient 47.3% from the field and 41.3% from three-point range.

Outlook

The Lakers played as well as they have all year against the Wizards on Wednesday, notching their third win of the season, but don’t expect the same result against the Hawks.

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Email Eric Pincus at Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.comfollow him on Twitter @EricPincus


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