Rapid Reaction: Lakers 105, Hawks 103
November, 3, 2013
By Dave McMenamin
LOS ANGELES -- Mike D'Antoni said an old basketball coach warned him to be careful about making changes to the lineup because when they're wrong, everyone will notice.
D'Antoni disregarded the potential scrutiny and switched up his starters just four games into the season Sunday, bringing in Xavier Henry with the first five and moving Nick Young to the bench.
It paid off in a 105-103 win by the Los Angeles Lakers over the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night at Staples Center.
In Henry, the starting group got another playmaker and more important, a penetrator, to attack the seams created by guys like Shawne Williams, Steve Nash and Steve Blake spacing the floor.
Ideally, that's the type of game Nash brings to the table, but as he continues to recover from a handful of bumps and bruises, the Lakers will gladly take those contributions from elsewhere, namely from Henry.
In Young, the bench received a confident player who had the game simplified for him. While he's in there with the reserves, he better score because he's clearly the most gifted player out of that group when it comes to offensive ability. It's a much different ballgame from when he is sharing the court with Pau Gasol and needs to defer.
Henry finished with 18 points to lead all of L.A.'s players. Young scored 13 to lead the bench.
The Lakers got the win.
And D'Antoni proved that he's flexible in a season that will require some ingenuity with this uneven roster.
How it happened: The Lakers' hot shooting in the first half (8-of-13 from 3 for 61.5 percent accuracy) allowed them to build a 21-point cushion in the second quarter that stood at 13 at halftime. Just like in the loss to San Antonio, the Lakers let the Hawks all the way back into it as Paul Millsap's midrange jumper tied it at 103-103 with 35.3 seconds left. Jordan Hill grabbed a Gasol miss off the offensive glass with 17.9 seconds left -- D'Antoni adjusted to have those two big men in down the stretch together -- and got it back to Gasol, who was able to draw a blocking foul on Millsap and hit the go-ahead free throws to give L.A. the 105-103 edge. Gasol tacked on a game-saving block on a Kyle Korver fadeaway jumper from the corner on the next possession and the Lakers improved to 2-2.
What it means: L.A. won a game it had to have. After squandering a winnable game against the Spurs, the Lakers moved to 2-2 to start the season.
Hits: Nash had his best game of the season by far, finishing with 13 points and six assists and more important, closing out the game in the fourth quarter when every possession mattered.
Hill made the most of the playing time he earned with his activity in the previous game and racked up six points and five boards Sunday, none bigger than the one that led to the Gasol free throws.
Gasol shot just 5-for-18 but had 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Eight different players hit a 3-pointer for L.A. The Lakers also had eight different players stroke a triple on opening night against the Clippers. Before this season, the Lakers had only achieved the feat one other time in franchise history -- Feb. 1, 2013 at Minnesota.
Williams, who had just six points through the first three games, had seven points on 3-for-5 shooting against the Hawks but fouled out after just 18 minutes.
Misses: Jodie Meeks, who was the Lakers' second-leading scorer averaging 13.7 points per game coming into Sunday, had just five points on 2-for-5 shooting.
After being so hot from 3-point range in the first half, L.A. ended the game on a 1-for-12 cold streak from deep.
Stat of the game: The Lakers had only 13 turnovers (four in the first half) after averaging 16 a night through their first three games.
Up next: The Lakers take their show on the road with a difficult three-game trip starting Tuesday in Dallas, followed by a back-to-back Thursday and Friday in Houston and New Orleans. Not only will each game be a challenge, but the spectacle of facing off against Dwight Howard is sure to be a distraction no matter how focused L.A. remains solely on the games.