Saturday , Dec , 09 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Walton leads Lakers in Kobe’s absence

Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) – Luke Walton scored a career-high 25 points
to lead the Kobe-less LA Lakers to a 106-95 win over the Atlanta Hawks.

Kobe Bryant sat with a sprained right ankle, but his Laker teammates picked up
the slack in his absence, with Maurice Evans pouring in 22 and Jordan Farmar
scoring 15 to lead LA to its fourth win in five games. Kwame Brown scored 13
points, and Smush Parker scored 11 for the Lakers.

Joe Johnson scored 30 for the Hawks, who have dropped two of their last three
games. Josh Smith scored 17 and pulled down 11 boards, and Zaza Pachulia added
12 points and nine rebounds on the night. Tyronn Lue contributed 11 points for

“We’ve got to develop some consistency where we can string a few wins together
here or there,” said Johnson. “Tonight we had a great chance to win the
game…but they wanted it badder then we did.”

The Lakers took control of the game on a 10-2 run midway through the third
quarter. Pachulia tipped in a shot to bring Atlanta to within two at 53-51
with 9:25 left in the third. The Hawks would only hit one field goal over the
next three minutes, though, and a Parker free throw put the Lakers up 63-53
with 6:39 left in the quarter.

LA breezed through the final quarter, leading by as much as 16 late in the
game before the Hawks closed the contest with five straight points.

“We knew we could win,” said Walton. “We knew we could rely on each other to
win it, that we didn’t have to try to do too much.”

The teams played it close through much of the first half. A Marvin Williams
free throw put the Hawks up 20-16 with just over a minute left in the
opening quarter. The Lakers closed the gap on an Andrew Bynum hook shot and an
Evans layup to send the game into the second quarter tied at 20-20.

The Hawks started fast in the second quarter, taking a 32-24 lead on a
Lue three-pointer with 8:23 left in the first half. The Lakers roared back,
though, scoring 10 straight. An Evans layup put LA up 35-32 at the midpoint
of the second quarter.

A Pachulia tip-in gave the Hawks a 47-46 lead going into halftime.

Game Notes

Walton wasn’t alone in scoring a career-high, as Evans and Farmar both notched
new personal-bests in scoring…Lamar Odom grabbed 15 rebounds and scored six
points for the Lakers…There were 13 lead changes and five ties…The Lakers
outrebounded the Hawks 42-35.