With the Lakers (minus Andrew Bynum) playing the fifth game of a five-game road trip and the Hawks off since Sunday afternoon and having spent the interregnum developing a productive aversion to the specter of Laker fans filling Philips Arena, the game essentially ended when, with the Hawks up 66-55 with5:16 left in the third quarter, Kobe Bryant made no effort to fight through a ball screen and allowed Joe Johnson a wide-open three-point attempt which Johnson made. The Lakers got back within 12 a handful of times in the fourth quarter, but never closer.
Atlanta's bench provided a good effort in both the first and second half. Their efforts made a greater impact due to their context. Unlike the last two games, the starters showed up to play from the opening tip and bracketed the second unit's appearances with productive efforts of their own. Joe Johnson was exceptional, scoring 25 points on 20 shots while earning eight assists against one turnover (of the five committed by the Hawks). Six teammates (Josh Smith, Al Horford, Mike Bibby, Jamal Crawford, Mo Evans, and Zaza Pachulia) joined him in double figures for the game as the Hawks nearly (59.6 eFG%) shot 60% from the floor.
If there's any worry created by an otherwise sound performance, it's not a surprising one: team defense. Despite it being a low possession game and not a competitive one over the final 17 minutes, the Hawks allowed 92 points in just 82 possessions. Should the Hawks make it to the second round of the playoffs and meet there a team of the quality of the Lakers they'll have no guarantee their opponent will be missing a starter and no opportunity to be well-rested at home while said opponent ends a lengthy road trip. That's the difference between an impressive regular season win and playoff basketball. That's not a difference to dwell on tonight.