LeBron hurt, Hawks beat Lakers 99-94 for 8th straight win

NBA
LeBron James

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James holds his ankle after going down with an injury during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — John Collins had 27 points and a season-high 16 rebounds, and the Atlanta Hawks rallied for a 99-94 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday after LeBron James left in the second quarter with an injured right ankle.

Trae Young had 14 points and 11 assists for the Hawks, who opened an eight-game trip with their eighth straight victory under new coach Nate McMillan — but only after their defending champion opponents lost their 17-time All-Star to an injury that could shake the NBA’s balance of power if it turns out to be serious.

James was hurt when he rolled his ankle under Solomon Hill, who was called for a foul as he reached awkwardly for a steal. The 36-year-old superstar screamed and fell to the court clutching at his ankle, yet he got up and briefly stayed in the game.

James even hit a corner 3-pointer that extended his NBA-record streak of games with at least 10 points to 1,036, but he called a timeout and left the court shortly afterward. James knocked over a chair in frustration as he went to the locker room.

“I haven’t necessarily seen him scream and squall like that, probably ever, not even with that groin,” said Kyle Kuzma, who was with the Lakers when James missed 17 games with a groin injury two seasons ago. “It had to hurt a little bit, for sure.”

The Lakers provided no information about James’ condition afterward while they prepared to leave for their game at Phoenix on Sunday.

“The mood of the team is we’re disappointed we lost, and we’ve got to come back and get one tomorrow,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “I won’t disclose what LeBron was like (in the locker room). It’s in-house.”

The remaining Lakers rallied and actually took a one-point lead to halftime, but missed their first 11 shots of the second half. Danilo Gallinari scored 14 of his 18 points after halftime for the Hawks, who are on their longest winning streak since January 2015.

“That was the first thing I told the guys: We can’t relax because LeBron is out of the game,” McMillan said. “We have to keep up the pressure, and I thought our guys did that.”

James’ absence left the Lakers without three starters in the second half, and the Hawks capitalized for their first road victory over Los Angeles since March 2016. All-NBA big man Anthony Davis missed his 14th consecutive game with a right calf injury, and Marc Gasol missed his seventh straight game since February after sitting out under the NBA’s health and safety protocols.

“It’s different without (James), without AD,” Gallinari said. “Of course they’re a different team. But at the same time, all of the players that stepped up are all NBA veterans with experience, guys that won championships. I would say it’s anyway a very good win.”

Montrezl Harrell had 23 points and 11 rebounds, while Dennis Schröder had 16 points and seven assists against his former team for the Lakers, whose four-game winning streak ended amid much bigger concerns.

TIP-INS

Hawks: “It’s definitely a different type of game when Bron is out,” Young said. “Everything they do goes through him and AD.” … Clint Capela had 16 rebounds.

Lakers: Gasol has cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocols, but coach Frank Vogel said the Spaniard wasn’t ready to play because he hasn’t practiced since February. … Davis isn’t expected to return until April.

RONDO RETURNS

The Lakers played a tribute video to former guard Rajon Rondo, who had five assists in 14 minutes during his first trip to Staples Center since the Lakers’ championship run in the Florida bubble. Rondo, who already got his championship ring through the mail earlier this season, watched the video appreciatively.

Rondo also stoked more nostalgia from Lakers fans when he got a technical foul in the third quarter for a weird bit of gamesmanship, inexplicably shoving the basketball into Schröder’s face after a whistle.

“I love competitors who really try to compete against me on the court, but that’s not competing,” Schröder said. “I’m going to leave it at that.”

UP NEXT

Hawks: At Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night

Lakers: At Phoenix on Sunday night.

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