For all the Los Angeles Lakers residual marquee value, in the cold, hard light of the standings, Monday’s meeting with the Hawks amounted to No. 3 in the East vs. No. 12 in the West.
Granted, L.A. plays in a much, much tougher neighborhood. But still, for a night, the result almost spoke mismatch.

Before the usual lively crowd that the Lakers bring with them, the Hawks beat the Lakers 114-100. They saved their highest-scoring game of the young season for the one night the Lakers came to town.
The Hawks seized control of the game with a third quarter surge and on this occasion refused to melt. They overwhelmed the Lakers with their energy. Eleven three-pointers didn’t hurt either.

In L.A., the Lakers won the first meeting of the season in early November by two with a markedly different starting lineup than Monday’s. Four different bodies in royal purple ambled onto the Philips floor, the one with Bryant stitched across his shoulders being the most noted.

In Kobe Bryant’s fifth game back from the ruptured Achilles he suffered in April, he was relatively benign. Got all his six first-half points in one two-minute spurt. Even missed a freebie to begin the second half, clanging a technical foul free throw.

DeMarre Carroll hectored Bryant from one end of the floor to the other, the Hawks designated pain in the shorts largely responsible for holding the Lakers star to eight points on 4-of-14 shooting.
Different cast from the first meeting, same beginning. The Hawks fell behind the Lakers early, missing seven of their first eight shots and trailing by as many as 10 points in the first quarter, into the second.

This hole, however, never reached November’s depth (a 21-point deficit). And the Hawks began repairing the damage in late in the first quarter using an unlikely contractor. Reserve center Elton Brand matched his season-high of eight points in a 10-minute period first-half span. Adding three resounding blocks, five rebounds and a steal in the first half, Brand supplied a much-needed infusion of energy.