Hawks brace for visit from LeBron, Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers will make their only appearance in Atlanta on Tuesday night, and Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce knows it won't be a typical mid-week game.
State Farm Arena will be sold out, loud and loaded with gold-clad fans who want to see the visiting team and its star player, LeBron James.
Pierce is eager to see how his young Atlanta team will react to all the hubbub, as it tries to stop a three-game losing streak and end its inability to win at home. The Hawks have dropped five straight on their home court.
"When you're in a little rut like we are ... spirit, energy, effort ... the best thing is to have a team like the Lakers come in," Pierce said. "Huge fan base. We know there will be a lot of Lakers fans in here, a lot of people showing up. As an athlete, you want to perform when the lights are on and there are a lot of people."
Atlanta is in the midst of a seven-game homestand. The Hawks have dropped their first three games, to Toronto, Charlotte and Orlando. They did not play well in Sunday's 124-108 loss to the Magic, a game in which Pierce took out all his starters as a unit in the middle of the third quarter in an attempt to send a message.
The Lakers are playing the finale of a six-game road trip. They have lost seven of their last 10 and were embarrassed 143-120 by the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday.
"We had too many breakdowns," James said. "Way too many breakdowns."
As usual, most eyes will be on James, who has appeared in 38 games, missing 17 with a strained groin and one because of load management. He is averaging 26.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 7.4 assists.
Power forward Kyle Kuzma has been playing at a high level. He scored 39 points and knocked down five 3-pointers against Philadelphia. The second-year player scored 25 in the previous game, a win at Boston.
Atlanta is led by forward John Collins, who averages 19.3 points and 9.8 rebounds, and rookie Trae Young, who averages 16.8 points and 7.4 assists. Both were selected to play in the Rising Stars Game during the NBA All-Star Weekend.
"It will be good to see how we respond in that type of atmosphere against a team that's been on the road for a while and is struggling," Pierce said. "The atmosphere is great, but it really comes down to us bringing the right approach."
The Lakers beat the Hawks 107-106 in Los Angeles in November on a dunk by James with 18 seconds remaining. Young's last-second shot was blocked by Tyson Chandler to secure the win. The Hawks played without Collins. The Lakers swept the series a year ago.
The Lakers are playing without Lonzo Ball, who has missed nine games with a left ankle sprain. Josh Hart (right knee) is out after receiving a PRP injection. The Hawks are fairly healthy, with Collins playing with a sore right knee.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 11, 2019