The middle two quarters may have been the ugliest I've ever seen, as the Hawks and Lakers combined -- combined! -- for 59 points. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol couldn't buy a bucket, and collectively the teams seemed determined to punish fans for shelling out their hard earned money for something as frivilous as basketball tickets.
But in the end, the Lakers got it together, going on a run to finish the third and pulling away down the stretch. Here are five takeaways...
1. Matt Barnes had some hop.
The Lakers are not a swift, dynamic bunch. Barnes is one of the few guys on the roster who makes things happen with movement, and Tuesday he absolutely energized the team (to whatever degree this game had energy) doing the stuff he does best. Slicing through the lane, he converted a nice pass from Bryant into points, then later got up the floor and, like the standout wide receiver he once was, hauled in a long bomb from Steve Blake for an easy deuce. Even on the ball, not generally his strength, Barnes found ways to produce. In the first half, with the shot clock running down, he put the ball on the floor from the top of the key, then wrapped a nice pass to Troy Murphy for a corner 3.
Throughout the game, Barnes was constantly moving towards the rim, running the wing, and aggressively closing on perimeter shooters. He finished with seven points and five rebounds, plus one assist, steal, and block each.
2. So did Metta World Peace.
Whatever the cause, MWP was very active tonight, not just defensively, where he spent a lot of time against Joe Johnson with very positive effects, but also on the other end. He closed the first half with a 3-pointer from the right corner that the Hawks, to put it mildly, let him take. (Had they simply left the floor before the horn, World Peace wouldn't have been more open.) The second half brought another triple, and even a thunderous drive through the paint, capped by a dunk. Then he dunked again! One-dunk MWP games are a rarity these days. Double dunk games generally arrive at the arena saddled up on a unicorn.
He finished with 10 points and four rebounds.
World Peace's days as a premier player are gone, but it makes a significant difference for the Lakers when he's not a liability. When he's actually a positive influence, it's even better.
POSTGAME UPDATE: Apparently, World Peace switched from high tops to low tops at halftime. Perhaps that explains his burst in the third and fourth quarters. Less weight keeping him down.
3. As a group, the bench did its job.
I mentioned Barnes already, but he wasn't the only contributor. Andrew Goudelock had 10 points, Blake made a few nice plays, and Murphy hit a pair of 3s. As a unit, they contributed 28 points, well above season averages, and didn't simply hold the fort, but actually made some structural improvements on the thing.
4. Kobe Bryant was 5-of-18, Pau Gasol was cold until a fourth-quarter rally, and the Lakers still won.
Chalk it up to their work on the defensive end, where L.A. held Atlanta to 34.4 percent from the floor overall, and Hawks stars Josh Smith and Johnson to 30 points on 35 shots, and only four free throws (all from Smith). It didn't hurt that Atlanta missed a bucketload of easy shots inside, but overall the Lakers played well on their end.
5. Andrew Bynum was willing, but the opportunities were weak.
Bynum destroyed the Hawks inside, busting out just about every tool in the box. He went up and under, used some pretty footwork to split a double on the block, made a nice turnaround J along the baseline, blocked a shot at one end then ran the floor for a chippie at the other, and at one point basically bulled through Zaza Pachulia for a bucket. Atlanta couldn't construct a defense capable of stopping him. Fortunately for the Hawks, the Lakers managed to do it for them. For long stretches Bynum simply wasn't getting the rock.
He finished with 15 points, on 7-of-10 from the floor, along with 15 rebounds and two blocks. Bynum was easily L.A.'s most productive player; he just didn't get the chance to show it often enough.