The Lakers came in mad; the Hawks made them madder

See that fellow in the background? His team got pounded. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

See that guy in the background? His team got pounded. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

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.”

Matched them in emotion. Matched them in intensity. Trumped them on talent. Trumped the defending champions. Think about that.

“This shows we can play with anybody,” Jamal Crawford said, but there’s a difference between playing with anybody and beating anybody. The Hawks have been able to do the former for a while, and now they’re managing the latter. Over the past eight days they’ve beaten both teams that played for the 2009 NBA title. You don’t do that unless you can play some yourself.

The knock on the Hawks — even they concede the point — is that they don’t always fight as hard against the minnows as they do versus the barracudas. But soon that will become a non-issue. The Knicks and the 76ers won’t be playing beyond the 82nd game. Said Crawford, smiling: “In the playoffs you only get good teams. That’s good for us.”

And it is. When the Hawks lock in, they’re a load. The Lakers were motivated in a way great teams seldom are motivated in the 75th game of a regular season — “We tried our best,” Ron Artest would say — and it didn’t matter. The Hawks seized the lead with 1:35 left in the first quarter and never let it slip.

This wasn’t just a victory. This was domination. The Hawks outscored the defending champions by 12 baskets. They made only five turnovers, none in the second half. (Think about that.) Seven Hawks scored in double figures. Their bench outscored the Lakers reserves 48-22.

“They’ve got a lot of hard-nosed guys on that team, like Ron Artest and Lamar Odom,” Josh Smith said. “It felt good to see everyone play hard and not back down.”

On the contrary, it was the Lakers who conceded. Kobe Bryant sat out the final 2:32, his services rendered inoperative. Splendid as he is, there are no 17-point shots in this sport.

“We were solid from beginning to end,” Woodson said, and if the Hawks stay solid there’s no telling how high they can fly this spring. (Indeed, they nosed ahead of Boston on Wednesday for the third spot in the East.) No, they don’t have a Kobe or a LeBron, but they do have a deep and talented and resourceful team.

The consensus holds that the Hawks are doomed to lose either to Cleveland or Orlando in Round 2, but if you’re the Cavs or the Magic do you really want to see this team in a best-of-seven? The Hawks finally broke through against Orlando last week, and they’ll have another chance at LeBron’s crew in Cleveland on Friday. And is there any better fortification for a trip to Quicken Loans Arena than a 17-point drubbing of the defending champions?

“This team has a lot of potential when it’s focused,” Evans said, and these Hawks are focused in a way they haven’t been in … what, decades? As Woodson keeps saying, they’re playing for something. And when they’re playing like this, they can beat anybody anywhere.

Said Crawford: “When you beat the Lakers, a lot of people take notice.” That would presumably include LeBron James. And Dwight Howard. And definitely Kobe Bryant.

111 comments Add your comment

mike lum

March 31st, 2010
9:33 pm

nicewin

March 31st, 2010
9:33 pm

Good job Hawks! I never expected the score to be 109-92! Keep it up and play like this in the playoffs! For the sake of your fans!

Darian

March 31st, 2010
9:34 pm

Hawks are definitely going to make it to the Conference Finals…Just do they have to go further?

Marcus

March 31st, 2010
9:34 pm

Good job Hawks. Go Thunder, beat the Cs.

Fred

March 31st, 2010
9:35 pm

Feels good they are finally good!

Home Team

March 31st, 2010
9:35 pm

Great win! Jamal Crawford is a baller.

the mook

March 31st, 2010
9:37 pm

way to finish the season strong! let’s keep this up!

Josh B

March 31st, 2010
9:37 pm

That’s what i’m talking about Hawks…keep this up during the playoffs too

MR164

March 31st, 2010
9:37 pm

TEAM WORK! Works every time!

Freshmaker

March 31st, 2010
9:38 pm

Wow. What a game! I had confidence that the Hawks would win, but had no idea they’d be so dominating. Fantastic effort. Can’t cheer them loudly enough.

ThatDawg'llBiteYou

March 31st, 2010
9:40 pm

At the end of the game, Kobe looked like slapped-down spoiled child. Love it.

Falcons need more white golfers.

March 31st, 2010
9:40 pm

Girls play basketball.

JSS

March 31st, 2010
9:41 pm

They may not bring it every night (which is maddening), but now some of the naysayers will be quiet and just accept the fact, this team can play championship caliber basketball… ENJOY!!!

Jonathan

March 31st, 2010
9:42 pm

Great game. When Mo and Zaza get going like that, we are very, very difficult to beat. And Al didn’t even really show up till the third quarter, but with our depth, we don’t need everyone to have big games every night. But against the Lakers, we needed a special effort and we got it.

Is it possible the Lakers (w/o Bynum) will not come out of the West this year?

bg3003

March 31st, 2010
9:42 pm

all around great basketball. When the hawks play like this they can beat anyone in the nba. no doubt!!

Don

March 31st, 2010
9:43 pm

But how do they manage to lose to the 76ers and the Bucks during that same time span?

clinton,nj

March 31st, 2010
9:45 pm

does this mean the all those loss’s to NY and miami are forgiven?

clinton,nj

March 31st, 2010
9:46 pm

Enter your comments here

Falcons need more white golfers.

March 31st, 2010
9:52 pm

Isn’t past your bed time nancy boy?

mountain_jim

March 31st, 2010
9:55 pm

Celtics down by 4 with 1:22 left

Cedrick

March 31st, 2010
9:55 pm

O M G !!!!! I did not even know we were playing the Lakers! Great Job HAWKS!!!

JeJe

March 31st, 2010
9:58 pm

FIRE WOODY

WE LOST @ PHILLY LOL

Taylor

March 31st, 2010
10:00 pm

Hawks back in the Three seed!

Marcus

March 31st, 2010
10:03 pm

C’s mad 2 … Thunder got that leprechaun booty …. 109 – 104.

BONE

March 31st, 2010
10:03 pm

STFU JEJE SPURS LOST @NETS

BONE

March 31st, 2010
10:03 pm

FIRE POPAVICH

Jonathan

March 31st, 2010
10:06 pm

Anyone who says “fire Woody” is ignorant and knows nothing about basketball. We have improved every year for 6 years with a team that for the first four of those was the youngest in the league.

Keith

March 31st, 2010
10:07 pm

See, when you party all night long, then try to play the next day with a possible hang over, you lose.

Jimbo Slice

March 31st, 2010
10:07 pm

first the last .1 second dunk, now destroying the lakers…perfect time to get hot… remember when the hawks were number one in the power rankings??

JeJe

March 31st, 2010
10:07 pm

CJ

March 31st, 2010
10:08 pm

ohhh so many bandwagon fans here. Get off the wagon and come back when you can support the Hawks when they have loosing seasons.

Zach

March 31st, 2010
10:09 pm

Mark,

Great win! My man Bibby got us started off right and the bench was great!

Question: How does a team (and I wont name any names **Cough**the cavs**Cough**) shot 34 MORE free throws than the bucks. Including a 17-0 margin in the 4th! Are you kidding me????

Jay Dubu

March 31st, 2010
10:10 pm

Great performance! This type of effort has to be translated to the road games. The Hawks have the talent to compete with any team, and beat most teams, if the game is in Atl. They have to play better on the road in order to move to the next level.

Ken

March 31st, 2010
10:10 pm

How about a little bit of praise for Billy Knight for putting together the main components of this team…

tom

March 31st, 2010
10:14 pm

I am impressed. I was calling for the coaches head three seasons ago. WoW!

Gray Mule

March 31st, 2010
10:14 pm

Oveall great team victory.
Everyone played well and the results show that’s true.

Gray Mule

JeJe

March 31st, 2010
10:16 pm

Everyone played well?

Marvin was garbage!

stilldefiant

March 31st, 2010
10:18 pm

giet

March 31st, 2010
10:20 pm

home advantage,well-rested vs. exhausted
‘road trip” opponents….

GovClintonTyree

March 31st, 2010
10:26 pm

What a beatdown. Think I’ll spend some money on this team.

oldandntheway

March 31st, 2010
10:29 pm

They’re fun to watch, hope they get through the second round.

Greene Hornet

March 31st, 2010
10:31 pm

I just hope we can keep it rolling Hawks fans! We can’t have games like Philly, etc too often. But hey, we won and we need it get after it and keep it rolling! Goooo Hawks!

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
10:33 pm

The above post has been completely rewritten to include quotes and other journalistic stuff.

PMC

March 31st, 2010
10:34 pm

The hustle was impressive. Yes the starters were excellent… but the intensity off the BENCH! Fantastic.

G Cancryn

March 31st, 2010
10:35 pm

Hope they get through the second round? Like Julius said, we’re looking for a CHAMPIONSHIP!!!!!!!!!!

titz

March 31st, 2010
10:42 pm

a good player is forced 2dominate d ball esp.when co-players miz d shots olwez but he scores ol d tym..it’s not selfish but 4 good of d team!!

ET

March 31st, 2010
10:42 pm

Hey giet try using english next time. That crap you typed is just that …crap.

BiggestHawksFan

March 31st, 2010
10:42 pm

The frustrating thing about this Hawks team is they could play like this every night. All the pieces are in place, they just have to believe they can be N.B.A. champs.

uberVU - social comments

March 31st, 2010
10:43 pm

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by ajcsportseditor: Hawks rout Lakers by 17. Discuss it with Mark Bradley: http://bit.ly/d1jcg0…

Dee

March 31st, 2010
10:47 pm

I don’t care if the Hawks don’t win another game as long as they beat the *&%# out of the Lakers!!!