The Los Angeles Lakers' favorable schedule over the first six-plus weeks of the season was expected to help them vault to the top of the Western Conference standings.That won't happen if they keep repeating their latest performance.
Coming off their worst loss at Staples Center in two seasons, the Lakers try for their fourth straight home win over the Atlanta Hawks, who are looking to improve to 3-0 as they open a four-game trip.
With 17 of their first 21 games at home and only one two-game trip until mid-December, the defending champion Lakers were expected by some to open the season with an extended winning streak.
Dallas, though, ended those thoughts with Friday's 94-80 victory in Los Angeles.
The Lakers (1-1) shot 39.5 percent from the field and scored 35 second-half points in their worst home defeat since a 110-91 loss to Boston on Dec. 30, 2007.
"That was one of the longest nights we've had in this building," coach Phil Jackson said Friday. "We should refund the money to our fans. Every time we got momentum we shot ourselves in our own foot."
Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 20 points, but missed 13 of 19 field-goal attempts. He is shooting 37.8 percent from the floor this season, making him largely to blame for Los Angeles' 40.4 team mark - worst in the Western Conference.
Bryant made 7 of 9 free throws versus Dallas, but the Lakers were outscored 25-9 at the foul line.
"We probably wanted it a little too much and that's what resulted in some of the (19) turnovers, shots going in and out," said Bryant, who averaged 13.5 points on 35.5 percent shooting as the Lakers and Hawks split two games last season. "You've got to get stops. Keep teams off the free throw line. We were just a little stagnant, but it will be better."
Getting forward Pau Gasol back on the court could help, but he is questionable for Sunday after missing the first two games with a strained right hamstring. Gasol, originally drafted by the Hawks with the third overall pick in 2001, posted his third career triple-double with 12 points, 13 boards and 10 assists in the Lakers' 96-83 win over visiting Atlanta on Feb. 17.
Lakers center Andrew Bynum has been solid through two games - averaging 20.0 points and 11.5 rebounds - but he'll need some help as Los Angeles faces Atlanta's talented young frontcourt.
Hawks forward Josh Smith scored 20 points, grabbed eight rebounds and moved past Shaquille O'Neal to become the youngest player in NBA history to record 900 career blocks during Friday's 100-89 victory over Washington.
"That's impressive, to see somebody block that many shots," Hawks forward Marvin Williams said of the 23-year-old Smith. "He's got it figured out. He should write a book or something."
First-year Laker Ron Artest could give Bynum some help against Hawks center Al Horford, who is averaging 17.0 points, 14.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocks.
Hawks swingman Joe Johnson has shot 50 percent or better from the field in six of his last seven games visiting the Lakers. He hit 8 of 16 and scored 20 points with 15 assists in Atlanta's last win over the Lakers at Staples Center - 114-110 on Feb. 15, 2006.
Los Angeles has won 15 of its last 18 home meetings with the Hawks.
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