The Los Angeles Lakers will be looking to extend their three-game win streak against the young Atlanta Hawks led by Trae Young on Sunday. Atlanta is on the second night of a back-to-back but their starters will be well-rested given the 49-point beatdown they suffered at the hands of the Clippers on Saturday. Or as the Clippers would say after a loss, #didntloseby50.
Despite that scoreline, though, the Hawks do pose a threat for the Lakers. Trae Young has blossomed into an All-Star level player in just his second season in the league and has the ability to go off at any time. With Avery Bradley out due to a hairline fracture in his leg, how the Lakers defend Young will be a major key to their success.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope started in Bradley’s place on Friday and had his best game of the season with a clutch 12 points in the fourth quarter to secure the win over the Kings. His effort to go over screens and chase Young off the 3-point line in addition to the Lakers’ bigs not allowing Young to pick the defense apart with his exquisite passing would go a long way in clinching another victory.
The Lakers struggled with the Kings and Suns over the past week in part due to their propensity to shoot 3-pointers. Fortunately for them, the Hawks shoot fewer long balls (31.6 per game; 17th in the NBA) and make them at a lower rate (29.8%; 29th in the NBA). That said, Young is truly one of the better passers in the league and will make you pay if you help off shooters.
The Hawks are not pushovers but the Lakers should still have their way with them. They don’t have the talent in the frontcourt to come close to matching up against LeBron James and Anthony Davis especially with John Collins in the middle of serving a 25-game suspension for PED usage. They have one of the worst defenses in the league (111.1 defensive rating; sixth-worst in the NBA). And they rely heavily on rookies like Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter who have not found their ways in the league yet.
The Lakers success will ultimately hinge on their effort level which has been rocky at times and if Young has an explosive night.
The Lakers host the Hawks at Staples Center at 6:30 PM PST on Sunday night.