The Lakers returned to Staples Center on a back-to-back night as the team defeated the Atlanta Hawks 107-106 to improve to 7-6 on the season. It marked the Lakers’ third consecutive win and the first time the franchise has been above .500 since Nov. 22, 2016.
“It was not a pretty win for us tonight, but a win is a win, so we’ll take it and learn from it,” Lakers coach, Luke Walton said.
On the final possession of the game, Atlanta’s rookie point guard, Trae Young drove to the basket and put up a floater in the final second. Young’s final shot attempt was blocked by Lakers’ newly signed center Tyson Chandler, who finished with three blocks.
“That’s my dawg,” Lakers star forward LeBron James interjected as Chandler addressed the media after the game.
As time expired in the game, Chandler ran towards the Lakers bench as he and James bumped chests and embraced with huge smiles of pure joy. The Lakers are undefeated since signing Chandler, the former Phoenix Sun, who has come up huge in each game with defensive plays.
“It’s good to finally have a winning attitude around here,” Brandon Ingram stated. “We just want to continue to keep going. I don’t think we can stay complacent right now.”
Young, who scored 20 points with 12 assists, gave the Lakers’ defense fits all game with his savant-caliber passes to center Alex Len and with his shot from long range.
“I think I’m adjusting really well,” Young said of his time in the NBA. He told the L.A. Sentinel, “Each game that goes on, I’m getting more and more comfortable. Each game I played so far, it’s been my first time against these players, so just getting familiar with my opponent and I’m just enjoying it too.”
Lakers’ point guard, Lonzo Ball was tasked with guarding Young at the start of the game. Ball contributed a near double-double for the Lakers with eight points, a season-high 11 assists and six rebounds. The plan was to keep Ball in the game to close, but as the game wore on Walton elected to put in Josh Hart.
“When [the Hawks] got cooking and we couldn’t get stops, I felt like, for tonight, what we needed was Josh Hart’s toughness and ability to be able to switch,” Walton explained. “We were starting to blitz [Trae] Young’s pick and rolls, which means we were going to be in straight scramble mode. I just felt like Josh…was more equipped to handle that kind of defensive rotation.”
Once more, Los Angeles barely escaped their opponent in the final seconds of the game. James missed two free throws late in the fourth quarter.
“I’m garbage,” James said. “I suck from the free throw line right now. I’ll get my rhythm back.”
He redeemed himself on that same Lakers’ possession which ultimately won the game, a putback dunk, that lifted the Lakers over the Hawks. James finished with a game-high 26 points.
“We both want exactly the same thing and that’s to turn this historic franchise that’s won over throughout the years and get it back to those type of days,” Chandler shared referring to he and James. “And in order to do that, you got to have these type of moments.”
Chandler’s veteran leadership and defensive sharpness has boded well for the Lakers in their quest to return to competitive championship contention. The team will look to continue their momentum on an upcoming three-game road trip.