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Preview: Lakers vs. Atlanta Hawks

March 03, 2013|By Eric Pincus
  • Pacers power forward David West drives against Hawks power forward Josh Smith during a game at Philips Arena in Atlanta.
Pacers power forward David West drives against Hawks power forward Josh… (Erik S. Lesser / EPA )

The Lakers (29-30) will host the Atlanta Hawks (33-24) on Sunday evening at Staples Center.

Atlanta is the only team in the league the Lakers haven't seen this season. The Hawks, in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, are led by big men Al Horford and Josh Smith.

Smith is a versatile forward averaging 17.2 points, 8.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and two blocks a game.  He's strong enough to play in the post but agile enough to guard a player like Kobe Bryant on the perimeter.

The Hawks are a tough and solid on the road (15-14) but somewhat inconsistent. Their backcourt lost some bite when guard Lou Williams went down with a knee injury.

Key matchup

Horford starts at either center or power forward (alongside Zaza Pachulia at the five).  Regardless, he'll get time against Dwight Howard.

At 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds, Horford is a two-time All-Star.  He's averaging 17.2 points and 10 rebounds a game while shooting 55.5% from the field.

Other than his struggles at the free-throw line, Howard has looked stronger since the All-Star break.  The Lakers have had a light week.  Look for Dwight to have a big game, but Horford is no pushover.

X-factor

The Lakers can be vulnerable against quick point guards and Atlanta's Jeff Teague is a capable scorer.  On the season he's averaging 14.4 points and 7.1 points a game.

Metta World Peace should be a good call to guard Smith.  World Peace is still one of the most physical defenders in the league.

If the Lakers can make sure Teague and Smith have average nights, the Hawks can be beaten.

Outlook

The Lakers can climb to .500 with a victory Sunday.

The teams directly ahead of the Lakers in the Western Conference standings (Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets) can be caught if the Lakers keep winning.

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Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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