Pau Gasol sank a pair of tiebreaking free throws with six seconds left, then blocked the game-saving shot with two ticks remaining to preserve the Lakers 105-103 victory over the Hawks at Staples Center in the NBA’s Sunday nightcap.
Xavier Henry led Los Angeles with 18 points in 26 minutes of action. It was Henry’s first start of the season as he replaced Nick Young in the lineup. Gasol had 16 points, none bigger than the final 2, along with 13 rebounds to post his second straight double-double and third overall in the first four games. Steve Nash and Nick Young each had 13, while Chris Kaman chipped in with 10 off the bench. Fourth-year wingman Wesley Johnson also had a nice game as a backup, finishing with nine points, seven boards and three blocks in 21 minutes.
Hawks sharpshooter Kyle Korver was lights out as he scored a game-high 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting, including going a perfect six-for-six from 3-point land. However, he was the one who attempted Atlanta’s game-tying shot with two seconds left which Gasol blocked as time ran out.
Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap added 14 points each, Al Horford finished with 12 points and 16 rebounds, while reserves Mike Scott (13) and Dennis Schroder (10) both reached double-figures. Horford was a beast on the boards, but he struggled with his shot going 5-of-12 from the field while also committing an uncanny game-high four turnovers in 34 minutes of action.
Los Angeles dominated early in the game by outscoring the Hawks by 11 in the first quarter and led by as many as 21 points in the second before Atlanta was able to cut the deficit to 62-49 at halftime. The Lakers maintained the advantage throughout the third and ended the period leading 88-76. However, the Hawks continued to show fight and started the fourth quarter on a 11-4 run to pull within five points. Korver then trimmed the deficit to 103-101 with just 75 seconds remaining after he cashed home his sixth 3-pointer of the game. Millsap later tied the score at 103 with an 11-foot jumper with 35 seconds left to play.
But Atlanta’s epic comeback would fall short thanks to Los Angeles’ reserve forward Jordan Hill.
Sandwiched between Horford and Millsap, Hill corralled Gasol’s missed 4-foot baby hook, his only offensive rebound of the night, giving the Lakers the final possession of the game. And this one they wouldn’t miss — the officials on the other hand may have.
Hill passed out to point guard Jordan Farmar so the Lakers could reset for the final play, Farmar waited for a Gasol screen at the 3-point line, went over it over drawing Horford’s attention, then made a nice bounce pass between Teague and Hoford to Gasol at the free throw line, who then took a step and turned for a layup but was greeted by Millsap, who had position in the lane outside of the restricted area, causing a collision and resulting in the refs blowing the whistle. After huddling up and checking the replay monitor, the officials decided to uphold the blocking call on Millsap and awarded Gasol two free throws.
Gasol made both free throws. He won the game.
Atlanta was putrid from the foul-line only converting 53.8 percent of their foul shots. If they had gone 17-of-26 from the stripe instead of 14-of-26, they walk out of Staples Center with a win. Scott had the best free throw efficiency on the team going 3-of-4 (75%) from the line while every other Hawk shot 60 percent or worse. Los Angeles, on the other hand, converted 20-of-24 as a team with no single player posting less than a 71.4 percentage from the line (Gasol, 5/7).
It’s crazy because the Hawks shot better from behind the arc and from the field overall than the Lakers. But as we all know: games are won and lost at the free throw line.
This was Atlanta’s first game of a three-game West coast road trip. They will be in Sacramento on Tuesday and will wrap up on Thursday in Dallas.