Published February 23, 2011
LOS ANGELES – All-Star game MVP Kobe Bryant scored 20 points, Pau Gasol added 14 points and 10 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Lakers easily ended their three-game skid with a 104-80 victory over the struggling Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night.
Shannon Brown scored 15 points as the two-time defending NBA champions got right back into form after stumbling into their hometown All-Star weekend with increasingly embarrassing road losses to Orlando, Charlotte and league-worst Cleveland.
The Lakers jumped to a 22-point lead in the first half of their first home game since Feb. 3, never trailing for the NBA-best ninth time.
All-Star Joe Johnson scored 14 points for the Hawks, who opened a five-game road trip with their fourth loss in five games.
All-Star Al Horford scored 13 points as Atlanta made less than 37 percent of its shots, missing 14 of 15 3-pointers. Coach Larry Drew sat his five starters for the entire fourth quarter of Atlanta's fifth straight loss to the Lakers at Staples Center.
The Lakers played the past seven games on the road while the Grammys and the All-Star weekend occupied the building. Their loss to the NBA's worst team inspired another round of panic in their fans, but the Lakers calmly proved they can still turn it on against a solid playoff contender.
Two days after taking every available shot while leading the All-Star game with 37 points on the way to his record-tying fourth MVP award, Bryant took just 11 shots — and he didn't need to do much more against the discombobulated Hawks.
The larger Lakers dominated Atlanta on the boards 54-32, with Andrew Bynum racking up 15 rebounds and three blocked shots. A 26-point lead heading into the fourth quarter allowed coach Phil Jackson to give plenty of rest to his regulars before Wednesday's trip to Portland.
Atlanta's two All-Stars were fairly sharp, but their teammates didn't quite appear ready for the stretch run to start just yet. Outside of Johnson and Horford, the Hawks were 18 for 59.
The Hawks play five games in seven days on their trip, including Wednesday night in Phoenix.
The Lakers built a 15-point lead in the first quarter with 67 percent shooting, easily finding open shots and thoroughly outrebounding the smaller, quicker Hawks. Atlanta fell apart offensively in the second quarter, going nearly 5 minutes without scoring and nearly 6½ minutes between field goals while the Lakers scored 14 straight points on the way to a 54-33 halftime lead.
Before the game, Bryant and Derek Fisher presented Atlanta reserve Josh Powell with his championship ring from last season's NBA title run with Los Angeles. Powell didn't contribute much to the Lakers last season, but Jackson praised his practice intensity.
Notes: Drew played two seasons with the Lakers from 1989-91, spent several years as a Lakers assistant coach and lives in Los Angeles in the offseason. He remembers panic when the Lakers went on any kind of losing streak, just as the current team faces, but says most of the pressure came from within the club — particularly Magic Johnson. ... The Hawks were the only team Los Angeles hadn't already played this season. The clubs meet again in Atlanta on March 8. ... Fans near courtside included Jack Black, Matthew Perry, USC defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, and Jim Buss, the son of Lakers owner Jerry Buss.