The defending NBA champions wanted this one. They had gone 2-2 on their road swing, and they needed to beat the Hawks, according to the Zen master Phil Jackson, to “redeem this trip.” Instead the regal Lakers were rebuffed, and rudely.
The Hawks beat the Lakers in every quarter. “That doesn’t happen much against that team,” Mike Woodson said afterward, but it happened for his team.
Down 10 points at the half, the Lakers figured to make a run. (It’s the NBA. Everybody makes a run.) The defending champions never broke out of a trot. The closest they came over the final 24 minutes — the closest, mind you — was seven points. The Hawks led by as many as 19 points, and this wasn’t a case of a road-weary opponent mailing one in.
“We got a focused L.A. team,” said Mo Evans, the sub who scored 18 essential points. “You could see it in Kobe’s eyes. But we matched their emotion and intensity.”