Hawks-Lakers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 02, 2013
Another victory won't move the Los Angeles Lakers back into the Western Conference playoff picture, but it will lift them to .500. The Lakers will try to get to the break-even point for the first time in more than two months on Sunday night when they go for a seventh straight home victory over the Atlanta Hawks. Acquiring Dwight Howard and two-time MVP Steve Nash in the offseason brought championship expectations, but this Lakers team has grossly underachieved. Los Angeles (29-30), though, is enjoying its best stretch of the season with 12 wins in 17 games. The Lakers are just 2 1/2 games behind eighth-place Houston and eyeing a .500 record for the first time since they were 15-15 on Dec. 28. "We've had enough time together where we've turned a corner and we're making improvement instead of continually taking steps back,'' said Nash, who had 10 points and seven assists in Thursday's 116-94 home win over Minnesota. "I think that improvement has been a long time coming, but it's only the beginning. We really need to continue to improve.'' Even in his 17th season, 34-year-old Kobe Bryant has still found a way to improve his game, shooting a career-best 47.2 percent. He's hit 59.6 of his field-goal attempts in the last four contests while averaging 35.0 points. The league's fifth all-time leading scorer has taken 21 or more shots in each of those games after a 13-game run when he took more than 19 just twice. "I've been in attack mode since the (All-Star) break. It's go time,'' Bryant said Thursday after hitting four 3-pointers and scoring 33 points. "We're getting a little closer, and we're starting to get in more of a striking distance where you start watching (the playoff race).'' The Hawks (33-24) can forget about catching East-leading Miami (42-14) in the Southeast Division, but they're in a tight battle with Brooklyn for the fourth seed and the first-round home-court advantage that comes with it. Atlanta was hoping to arrive at Staples Center on a five-game winning streak, but it committed 21 turnovers in Friday's 92-87 loss to Phoenix. "It's been good for us these first three games of the road trip, and we've been playing very well, (but) maybe we needed a game like this to just snap up back into reality," said coach Larry Drew, a former Laker point guard. "Now we have to go into LA to play against a very tough Laker team and then we go to Denver (on Monday) to finish this road trip out. We let a golden opportunity slip away tonight, but we've got to be ready for the next." Howard better be ready for Al Horford, who has been on a tear over the last eight games - averaging 24.8 points and 11.8 rebounds. Atlanta, though, will likely need a better offensive effort from Josh Smith, who had five points on 2-of-11 shooting on Friday, if it's going to post its first road win in this series since Feb. 15, 2006. Playing without Horford (torn pectoral muscle), the Hawks had one of their worst shooting performances of the season (34.4 percent) in the last matchup between these teams, an 86-78 Lakers home win last Feb. 14. Bryant finished with a season-low 10 points in that contest, Los Angeles' third straight victory over Atlanta.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Emmanuel Sanders wife: WR lied to Broncos, skipped practice to party

Report: Celtics focused on Jimmy Butler amid Cousins trade news

DeMarcus Cousins traded to Pelicans for players, picks

West teammates hilariously celebrate Durant and Westbrook oop

Report: Romo willing to rework contract to facilitate trade

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Lonzo Ball's father says son is better than Curry right now

Report: Rams could have interest in Cousins if Goff flops

Mike Trout talks about 'frustrating' struggles of Angels

Report: Butler to Celtics talk will loom over All-Star week

Report: Carmelo expects to remain with Knicks

James Harden: ‘For sure’ I’m the best player in the world

Too much to Process: Can Simmons match the Embiid hype?

Is the NBA All-Star Game worth saving?

There will never be another Dirk Nowitzki

The Rewind: Michael Jordan's last All-Star Game

Best of Yardbarker: NBA All-Star Games past, present and future

Eat, Drink, Watch: Everything goes better with a side of New Orleans

The 'Michael Jordan might still win the Dunk contest if he entered' quiz

How to reboot NBA All-Star Weekend

Second-year NBA stars who can salvage the season

Observations from a day at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

Box Score 2/17: Happy birthday, Michael Jordan (and welcome to 1000 point club, Sid!)

Box Score 2/16: Getting ready for the ASG

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

QUIZ: Name every MLB pitcher with 200 or more wins since 1961

Best of YB: NBA All-Star Games past, present and future

Who will break these NBA All-Star Game records?

Is the NBA All-Star Game worth saving?

There will never be another Dirk Nowitzki

The Rewind: Michael Jordan's last All-Star Game

Eat, Drink, Watch: Everything goes better with a side of New Orleans

How to reboot NBA All-Star Weekend

Baseball movies you can stream now to hold you over until Opening Day

Second-year NBA stars who can salvage the season

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker