Los Angeles was without both LeBron James and Anthony Davis on Friday when they lost 117-114 to the Charlotte Hornets. James has missed two straight games with left knee soreness, and Davis was out with a sore right wrist that he injured on Thursday. Davis could have played, but coach Frank Vogel opted for caution.
«Day to day with both of those guys,» Vogel said. «Hopefully we get them both back, but we’ll have to see how their injuries are responding.
The Lakers were also without Malik Monk because of a groin strain.
The absence of those starters forced Russell Westbrook to take a larger role and he responded with 35 points, even though his potential game-winning 3-pointer with 0.7 seconds left failed to drop. He had 16 in the fourth quarter to help the Lakers erase a 20-point deficit, and franchise legend Magic Johnson tweeted it was Westbrook’s best game since joining the team.
The Lakers have lost two straight and three of their last four. They are 2-3 on the current road trip, which ends against Atlanta.
Atlanta has won six straight games, the longest active winning streak in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks will try to gain some revenge on the Lakers, who hammered them 134-118 on Jan. 7. Westbrook fell one point short of a triple-double in that game.
Atlanta fell to eight games under .500 on Jan. 15. The six-game winning streak, which included Friday’s 108-92 win over the Boston Celtics — has allowed the Hawks to leapfrog the New York Knicks and get back in the playoff picture.
«We’re just all bought in and trying to turn this thing around,» Atlanta’s Trae Young said. «We just had to get stops. We knew what we needed to do and we’re doing it right now, so we’ve got to keep it going.»
Young, who averages 27.5 points and 9.2 assists, didn’t have a great shooting night against the Celtics (8 for 25), but responded in the fourth quarter and scored five points during an 18-2 streak that put the game away.
The defense was noticeable during that run, too. A timely block by Clint Capela on a Dennis Schroder drive — one of Atlanta’s season-high 11 blocks — was critical. Young even drew an offensive foul in the paint. Atlanta held an opponent to fewer than 100 points for the ninth time this season.
«We just got stops,» Young said. «We just played defense and really fought. Shots weren’t going in, especially for me. It was a great defensive game for us against a team that can really score a lot of points. For us to hold them to 92 points was great.»
Depending on player availability, the Lakers score a lot of points, too. Los Angeles ranks 10th in the league with 110.8 points per game. But that number isn’t the same without James (29.1) and Davis (23.0).
The teams split their two-game series last season.
–Field Level Media