Lakers guard Kobe Bryant shoots over Atlanta forward Josh Smith. (Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles…)
The Lakers (34-31) take a four-game winning streak into Atlanta on Wednesday, visiting the 34-29 Hawks.
Both teams played on Tuesday, the Lakers getting a slow-paced win in Orlando, watching Dwight Howard practice his free throws (hitting 25 of 39 attempts). The Hawks played relatively light minutes in a lopsided defeat in Miami against the Heat.
Atlanta has struggled in March, losing six of seven. Center Zaza Pachulia (Achilles injury) isn't expected to play.
On March 3 at Staples Center, the Lakers won a tight battle over the Hawks on a Kobe Bryant layup with nine seconds left. Atlanta shot 50% from the field and forced the Lakers into 21 turnovers. The Hawks also had an 8-1 advantage on blocked shots.
In their last meeting, the Hawks got 16 points each from Devin Harris and Kyle Korver off the bench against the Lakers. Coach Mike D'Antoni relied on smaller lineups with Bryant at small forward.
Bryant scored 34 points battling against the taller Josh Smith, who had 19 with seven assists.
The Hawks executed their offense at a high level against the Lakers, but Smith bobbled a late opportunity with the game on the line.
While Tuesday was Howard's night in Orlando, look for Bryant to have a big one Wednesday in Atlanta.
The Hawks flustered the Lakers offensively, led by 24 point from Al Horford. However, it was Korver's floor-spacing that caused many of the defensive breakdowns.
If Korver has a big game, the Hawks can be a very difficult cover.
The Lakers need a big defensive effort from Metta World Peace on Korver, and on Smith, and possibly on Horford.
The Hawks are vulnerable -- both teams are playing on the second night of a back-to-back -- but Atlanta should be favored slightly at home.
It would be a big game for the Lakers to get given their tight playoff chase.
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.