Season Series: Lakers 1-0
Divisional Standings: Lakers 1st Pacific - Hawks 2nd Southeast
Streaks: Lakers lost 1 - Hawks won 1
With the Lakers losing to the Hornets and the Spurs giving New Jersey their 10th win of the season last night, yes Garnett, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!!! The NBA never seizes to amaze me. Lakers are so unpredictable that I stopped my pregame assumptions and forecast only for morning forecast.
The Atlanta Hawks have completely turned things around from a year ago and only have one objective entering every game having no regard for opponents. To win. Josh Smith, the only native still on the roster from that horrid 13-win season last year is on a personal mission to finish first. He's averaging 16 points and having his best rebounding season of his career averaging 9 boards. Josh is one of those players who fills a stat sheet and is a great over-all contributor. Al Horford is a monster! He's had 8 consecutive double doubles! Al is averaging 14 pts. with 10 rebs. Joe Johnson is a definite gung-ho shooter and will have no problem matching Kobe's shot attempts. The big question is which one of the two shooting guards will make their shots? Don't rule out Marvin Williams either. His sporadic pattern shows for an expected outpouring of points any game now. Jamal Crawford is such an important backup guard to have on this Atlanta squad. He's averaging 18 points and is a perfect fill-in for coach Mike Woodson when resting his starters. As you can see, Hawks definitely have fire power and look for them to put some major points on the scoreboard tomorrow night.
Lakers presently have their success in Gasol and Kobe. Gasol is coming off his second best game of the season (26 pts. & 22 rebs) and will need to continue to play this well against Atlanta's big man in Horford. Kobe will need to stay on track or even better, be ahead of Atlanta's high octane offense. If the usual 1-2 punch duo goes rogue with no help from teammates then Atlanta will have their way with us. Artest and Lamar will have to kick it up several notches in order to stay in contention with the Hawks and help balance the score. D Fish and Farmar will need to stop Bibby's bounce and break any rhythm he may have early in the game. Shannon will need to give Kobe some luxury bench time and hold Crawford to minimal production. I think Shannon's role in tomorrow's game will be key, whether it'll be in his defense or offense, he just needs to make a positive impact in the game.
Both teams have a tough first game in April. Lakers host Utah and the Hawks visit Cleveland. A victory entering these games would be ideal for a necessary momentum booster.