Atlanta Hawks vs. Los Angeles Lakers Preview and Pick

Atlanta Hawks +9 (31-21) at L.A. Lakers -9 (42-10) O/U 213.5 10:30 PM ET Tuesday February 17, 2009
By Jason Green at

Tonight the Atlanta Hawks travel across the country to La La Land to play the L.A. Lakers. The All Star break is over and now is crunch time in the second half of the season. The Hawks currently hold the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference, but are they good enough to challenge the Celtics, Cavaliers, or even the Magic in the East? The Lakers have the league’s best record and even though they lost Andrew Bynum for several weeks due to a knee injury, they did not need the big guy in the middle in 2 huge away wins over the Celtics and Cavaliers before the break. The Lakers are 8-2 in their last 10 games and lead the Pacific Division by 13.5 games over the Phoenix Suns, while the Hawks are only 5-5 in their last 10 games and are in 2nd place in the Southeast Division 7.5 games back of the Orlando Magic.

This season the Lakers are 24-4 at home and the Hawks are 12-15 in away games.

Hoops bookies have the Lakers as 9-point favorites with a total around 213.5. The Lakers are posted at -600 as home favorites and the Hawks are posted at +450 as away dogs.

The Hawks come into this game after beating the Detroit Pistons 99-95 in their last game before the break. The high scorer for the Hawks in that game was Joe Johnson going for 27 points on 10/16 shooting. For the game the Hawks shot well going 38/74 from the floor for a FG% of 51.4%. On D the Hawks allowed the Pistons to shoot 39/79 for a FG% of 49.4%.

The Lakers come into this game after losing to the Utah Jazz 113-109. Of course Kobe was the high scorer for the Lakers going for 37 points on 14/33 shooting. For the game the Lakers shot 42/90 for a FG% of 46.7%. On D the Lakers broke down, big time, as the Jazz torched them shooting 41/70 for a scorching FG% of 58.6%.

The Lakers are the highest scoring team in the league (108.7 ppg), while the Hawks are in the middle of the pack ranking 15th (98.9 ppg). Both teams can shoot the rock, as each is shooting a FG% of over 45%. On defense the Hawks are actually a better team, according to the stats that is, as they rank 12th in points allowed (97 ppg), while the Lakers rank 20th (100.3 ppg). The Lakers are much better on the boards, as they have a rebounding differential of +3.2 rpg, while the Hawks are at -1.9 rpg.

This season the Lakers are 32/20 in Over/Under games and the Hawks are 26-25-1.

On the injury front C Andre Bynum is Out for the Lakers and SG Thomas Gardner is Out for the Hawks.

Sorry Kobe, you have to get out of the time machine and forget your co-MVP performance with ex-mate Shaq and get back on the floor without a big guy in the middle.

The Lakers could really use Bynum, as the Hawks do not have a lot of size. Still, even without Bynum the Hawks will have a hard time dealing with 7 foot Pau Gasol and 6′ 10″ Lamar Odom. Al Horford (10.4 ppg 8.4 rpg) has to play good inside D and not let the Lakers control the boards.

The Hawks have one of the best starting 5 in the league, as they all average over 10 ppg led by Joe Johnson (21.6 ppg). However, their bench is thin, while the Lakers have one of the deepest benches in the league.

The Lakers may dominate the boards tonight, especially if Gasol (18.3) is hitting the outside J, as it will make Horford bail the lane to guard him, which will open up the lane for the Lakers to hit the offensive boards.

Even though defensive stud Kobe generally guards Joe Johnson, he is averaging 25 ppg and shooting 48.9% in his last 7 games against the Lakers.

The key to this game is if the Hawks can play good D and keep the Lakers off the boards. If they don’t do these things they will get killed no matter how many points they put on the scoreboard.

Jason’s Pick: I think Atlanta can hang in there spread-wise and cover.