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Hawks crushed by Lakers

POSTED: March 2, 2008 5:01 a.m.

LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol each scored 23 points before sitting out the fourth quarter, and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Atlanta Hawks 122-93 Tuesday night for their fifth straight victory.

It was Gasol's first home game with Los Angeles, Bryant's first since deciding to forego surgery on his injured shooting hand, and Mike Bibby's debut with Atlanta following Saturday's trade from Sacramento.

Bryant, who dislocated his right pinkie during the Lakers' 7-2 trip, was 8-for-16 from the field with five steals, five rebounds and three assists. He played free and easy and didn't seem at all inhibited by the ailing finger, making a pair of dunks and going 1-for-4 from 3-point range.

The 10-time All-Star and two-time defending NBA scoring champ has averaged 30.4 points over his last five games after scoring 11 on 4-for-16 shooting in a 98-95 loss in Atlanta on Feb. 6. Bryant risked having to sit out this one had he not played in an All-Star game, so he suited up in New Orleans on Sunday and spent only 2 minutes, 52 seconds on the court to rest his sore finger.

Lamar Odom, coming off his 12th career triple-double, also sat out the final quarter after getting 17 points and 15 rebounds. The Lakers finished 51 percent from the field, improving to 18-1 when shooting at least 50 percent.

Joe Johnson had 18 points for the Hawks, who lost their season-worst fifth straight and sixth in a row on the road. Bibby had just five points and three assists in 16-plus minutes, picking up his fourth foul with 9:33 left in the third quarter and going to the bench for good with Atlanta down by 35.

Rookie center Al Horford, who had a career-high 20 rebounds against the Lakers the last time the teams met, picked up two fouls in his first 7 minutes on the floor and finished with five boards.

Atlanta's Josh Childress had 16 points in 30 minutes after missing one game with a hyperextended right knee. He hit a 3-point buzzer-beater from 27 feet to end the first half, but all that did was trim Los Angeles' lead to 73-37.

The Lakers ended the first quarter with a 13-0 run that extended their margin to 18 points, and they never looked back. Bryant helped power a 22-1 blitz that gave them a 68-28 cushion in the final minute of the second quarter. The Hawks got no closer than 23 points.

After making things miserable for Bibby in his first game with the Hawks, the Lakers will be Shaquille O'Neal's first opponent as a member of Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night when he faces the team he helped lead to three straight NBA titles. A win would tie the Lakers with Phoenix for first place in the Pacific Division.

Bibby also will face his ex-teammates on Wednesday when the Hawks travel to Sacramento. The 29-year-old point guard averaged 13.5 points and 5.0 assists in 15 games for the Kings after missing their first 36 games while recovering from surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb.


 



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