The Los Angeles Lakers are continuing to lose players to injury, as it was announced on Friday that Lonnie Walker IV and Austin Reaves will miss at least two weeks with knee tendonitis and a strained hamstring, respectively.
But they didn’t seem nearly as shorthanded against the Atlanta Hawks as they were in reality.
Los Angeles got out to a fast start and did so by playing their style of basketball. They held the Hawks to a very low shooting percentage in the first half and capitalized on their misses and mistakes.
The Lakers had 22 fast-break points in the first half, but more impressively, they also held Atlanta to zero in that category until late in the second quarter.
They coasted a bit later, as Trae Young got hot, but every time the Hawks looked to make things competitive, LA was able to hit shots to keep them at bay.
The Lakers’ 130-114 victory was their fourth in a row, and with an 18-21 record, they’re clawing their way toward the Western Conference playoff picture. More importantly, players towards the end of the rotation are chipping in to help offset the production they have lost due to injury.
LeBron James: A-
James looked very active and energetic tonight, and although he didn’t have the type of big game he had against the Hawks last week or the Charlotte Hornets on Monday, he was still very effective.
He scored 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting and added seven rebounds and 10 assists. He’s still having trouble hitting from 3-point range, and he committed five turnovers, partly due to some lazy passes, but other than that, he’s still near the top of his game at age 38.
Since the Lakers maintained such a large lead, James only logged 33 minutes against Atlanta. That will come in handy as the Lakers will play tomorrow evening at the Sacramento Kings.
Juan Toscano-Anderson: B
Toscano-Anderson has helped the Lakers lately with his defense and energy. He scored four points, but don’t pay much attention to his points; it’s his intangibles that help the team.
He registered four rebounds, two steals, one blocked shot and one assist in 21 minutes, and at 6-foot-6 and 209 pounds, he gives LA some legitimate size at both forward positions.
Thomas Bryant A
Bryant has become an invaluable player for the Lakers this season, especially ever since Anthony Davis got hurt.
He finished with 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting and 13 rebounds, plus one steal and one block. He started the game on a positive note by hitting a 3-pointer to put the Lakers on the board in the opening seconds, but his efficiency in the paint is white-hot right now.
Bryant’s effort on the offensive boards and on putbacks is also very impressive, and overall, he is the type of lunch-pail energy player they really need.
Patrick Beverley: B-
Beverley went 2-of-5 overall and 1-of-3 from downtown while registering four rebounds, four assists and one block. Even when his defense is n’t getting results, his mere effort on that end of the floor sets the right tone.
Dennis Schroder: A-/A
Schroder was very aggressive for the second game in a row, following up a 32-point effort on Wednesday with 21 points on 7-of-14 overall and 5-of-8 from beyond the arc.
If people were to nitpick, they may point out the fact he only had one assist but committed three turnovers. Still, this is the version of Schroder the Lakers need moving forward, especially as long as they’re shorthanded.
The ball finds energy, and Gabriel plays with just about as much energy and effort as anyone else. He got five rebounds and scored four points while even notching two assists in 19 minutes.
Russell Westbrook: A/A+
Westbrook was very effective and efficient tonight, as he played a very clean game. He shot 7-of-14 overall and 2-of-4 from 3-point land, giving him 18 points plus 11 rebounds, nine assists, two steals and one blocked shot in 31 minutes.
If this were a close game, he could’ve likely finished with a triple-double, which would’ve been his fourth of the season.
Kendrick Nunn: A+
With Walker and Reaves out, the Lakers need Nunn to step up, and he did exactly that on Friday. He was 9-of-16 from the field and shot well from 3-point range to finish with 23 points in 27 minutes.
Nunn is still clearly a very good and skilled player who can score efficiently from all three levels, and it appears he will get some significant playing time this month.
Max Christie: A-
Christie appears to be well ahead of where he was expected to be by now in terms of his development. He hit both of his 3-point attempts and scored eight points while adding three assists, one rebound and one blocked shot.
Like Nunn, Christie may get some meaningful playing time for a while because of the injuries to Walker and Reaves.
Cole Swider, Sterling Brown, Scotty Pippen Jr.: Incomplete
Swider, Brown and Pippen got scant playing time at the end of this contest. Brown and Pippen went scoreless, while Swider quickly hit a semi-contested 3-pointer after checking in.