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Peachtree Hoops: First half struggles sink Hawks in 122-101 loss to Lakers

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NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Los Angeles LakersKelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The road trip ends at 1-4.

Less than 24 hours after a disastrous showing against Paul George and the Clippers, the Atlanta Hawks were back in action on Sunday night against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. For a large portion of the first half, the follow-up felt like a repeat of the previous evening and, despite some legitimately positive signs after halftime, the Hawks fell by a final score of 122-101.

The game threatened to fly off the rails in the early going, with the Lakers surging to a 30-6 lead that forced everyone to relive portions of Saturday’s blowout. Atlanta opened 2 of 12 from the floor and, when coupled with poor defense, things were extremely ugly for the visiting team.

Fortunately, there was a bit of fight in the Hawks (after a few substitutions) and a 13-0 run materialized later in the period with help from Bruno Fernando and Allen Crabbe.

Ultimately, Atlanta trailed by only 12 points at the end of the first quarter and, candidly, that felt like a massive victory after the way things began. The Hawks continued their upward trajectory early in the second quarter as well, using a 6-0 run — capped by a big dunk from Jabari Parker — to climb back within ten points.

Atlanta’s push took place with LeBron James off the floor, though, and things flipped when he returned. In fact, the Lakers immediately rattled off a 19-4 run to take a 25-point lead and, in the first half, Los Angeles was +41 in the 17 minutes in which James was on the floor. Other than the (unremarkable) debut of Chandler Parsons, there wasn’t much else to say about the rest of the quarter, with the Hawks trailing by a virtually insurmountable 28-point margin after 24 minutes.

On the bright side, Trae Young did Trae Young things before halftime, leading the way with 18 points.

The Hawks did show some fight after halftime and it came in the form of a 17-3 run. Granted, the margin was at 30 when the spurt began but the trio of De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Damian Jones did yeoman’s work to slash the deficit to 16.

In fact, it was the best quarter of Reddish’s young career, with contributions on both ends of the floor.

Atlanta’s momentum did subside, however, and the Lakers zoomed to a 10-1 run to close the third quarter. That put the Hawks in a 19-point hole with only 12 minutes remaining and, after a mini-run by the Lakers, the visitors trailed by 22 points with only nine minutes on the clock.

That gap proved to be too much to overcome, but the Hawks flashed some genuinely positive signs after halftime, particularly when noting the play of Reddish and Hunter. Trae Young keyed the offense with 31 points and seven assists in 39 minutes of play, with both rookie forwards cracking double figures in scoring and a strong, 11-point contribution from Crabbe.

The Hawks will return to the court on Wednesday evening against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks at State Farm Arena. Stay tuned.

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