Atlanta Hawks fall to the Los Angeles Lakers, but young core takes another step forward

The Atlanta Hawks lost a tough one to the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday night, via a final score of 101-96 in front of a sellout State Farm Arena crowd. 

But, it couldn’t have been a better lesson for the Hawks, especially rookie Cam Reddish, who missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer to tie the game at 99 with 9.7 seconds to go.

“I just told Cam Reddish that this is the moment that just got him better,” head coach Lloyd Pierce said. “I think now he’s gone through it and this is going to help him with his career.”

The young bucks in the home locker room took notice as well, as many of the Hawks players praised the talent of the Lakers, especially rookie forward De’Andre Hunter.

“Just watching how they communicate, how they execute their offense, how they talk on defense. They know where each other’s going to be on the floor,” he said. “They’re kind of a new team, so for them to have that experience … that’s big for them.”

At the end of the day, however, a loss is a loss, and this was as tough as any other. The Lakers moved to 24-3 on the season while the Hawks sunk to 6-21.

Let’s look at how this came to be, shall we?

The Lakers are the best team in the NBA and boast two of the league’s top players. Let’s be honest here: nobody is beating them in a seven-game series this spring.

Highlights for the Lakers came consistently, as LeBron James gave the crowd and the LA bench a show each time he touched the ball.

“Highlights? Sometimes they happen, sometimes they don’t,” the future Hall of Famer said. “But just playing the game with a lot of joy, a lot of fun and intensity, trying to do whatever it takes to help my team win, I was happy. I was able to make a few plays tonight to help us win.”

James, a consensus top-2 basketball player of all time along with Michael Jordan, had a field day at State Farm Arena. 

The three-time league MVP dropped 32 points to go along with 13 rebounds and 7 assists. His supporting cast stepped up as well, with four other players scoring in double figures, including Anthony Davis, who had 27 big ones to go along with 13 rebounds and three blocks.

This is a young Hawks team, a very inexperienced roster, that’s missing their second-best player, all-star center John Collins. For the team, it was the usual narrative of the year: they had to fight harder than they should’ve and they made mistakes that are easy to learn from.

Guard Trae Young scored a cool 30 points but struggled to be efficient, as he needed 22 shots to get there and made less than half of those. His seven assists were a bright spot, his six turnovers were not. He’s a great offensive player, but his ball security and defense aren’t up to par with his exceptional shooting ability.

De’Andre Hunter was also put to work on the night. His matchup was James on both ends of the floor. It’s safe to say 22-year-old rookie was punished more than anyone else but had some bright spots. 

On one play, in particular, Hunter helped Vince Carter trap Davis in the corner, forcing a bad shot from the big man and resulting in a Hawks possession. Aside from the highlights, this is something that the casual fan would neglect to notice: defensive movement.

Moving forward, the Hawks will host on Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz Thursday night at 7:30 pm.