The Atlanta Hawks had won the first three games of their six-game road trip before falling to Phoenix on Friday. Now, they are on a different streak, losing their second straight in Los Angeles last night to the Lakers in a 99-98 nailbiter.
Kobe Bryant hit the go-ahead layup over Josh Smith with nine seconds left to seal the victory. Bryant finished with 34 points as the Lakers reached the .500 mark with a 30-30 record, as they continue to hope for a playoff berth.
Al Horford (24 points, 3 steals) had given the Hawks the lead with 24 seconds left on a dunk, assisted by Smith (19 pts, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 blocks) before Bryant hit the game winner.
Kyle Korver and Devin Harris helped loads off the bench, each finishing with 16 points. Jeff Teague had a rough game, shooting just 3 for 13 and finishing with eight points and five assists. It was still close, as the Hawks forced 21 Laker turnovers, but just not quite enough.
Steve Nash added 15 points and 10 assists for the Lakers, and free-agent-to-be Dwight Howard added 11 points and 15 rebounds.
After the game, Smith didn't hesitate to praise the longtime Laker:
"[Bryant's] an assassin. He wants that moment. But from a defensive standpoint, I love taking a challenge like that and try to step up and try to make it tough for him. It was kind of like a tug-of-war match. We were going back and forth, and they made one more play than we did to win the game. I live for moments like this."
Horford was magnanimous in his praise as well.
"There's a reason why he's the best player in the game. He did what he usually does, and we didn't do a good enough job on him. It's disappointing. We thought we worked hard and put ourselves in a position to win. We just had too many mistakes down the stretch."
The Hawks, now 33-25, wrap up their road trip tonight in Denver. Tip-off is at 9 PM Eastern time.