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Five things to watch in Lakers-Hawks matchup

February 14, 2012 | 12:00 pm

Kobe Bryant drives around Atlanta's Josh Smith.
Some things to keep an eye on when the Lakers (16-12) host the Atlanta Hawks (18-10) Tuesday at Staples Center.

1. How will the Lakers' energy hold up? The Lakers have long maintained that it's unpredictable how they'll fare on the first game back after the annual Grammy trip. In the 2009-10 season, the Lakers followed the trip by eking out a 99-97 win over Charlotte. Last season, the Lakers blew Atlanta out of Staples Center by double-digit margins, but that came after an extended All-Star break. Add in the Lakers' inconsistent chemistry this season and it remains to be seen whether they're wiped out from the six-game trip. Either way, the Lakers' energy level from the beginning should largely dictate how this game will play out. 

2. The Hawks haven't beaten many elite opponents. Atlanta has lost five consecutive games in L.A. The Hawks are 5-9 against teams above .500 and have lost four of their last five home games by a combined 69 points. The Lakers could have a field day with their size the same way the Miami Heat did Sunday against the Hawks. But it's not safe to presume anything with these Lakers, especially when Atlanta compiled wins against Indiana, Portland and Orlando, two of which have already beaten the Lakers.

3. The Hawks have played well despite Al Horford's absence. Hardly anyone thought Atlanta would remain an Eastern Conference contender after Horford suffered a pectoral injury that required surgery. Part of their secret has involved compiling 22.4 assists per game and averaging only 13.8 turnovers.  That's going to require that the Lakers remain disciplined on defense.

4. Pau Gasol and Josh Smith will be fun to watch. Both of these elite forwards remain miffed they were passed up for this year's All-Star game. Both have been inconsistent this season, but this game should bring out the best in them.

5. How will Metta World Peace play with his teammates? Fox Sports West's Joe McDonnell talked to an unnamed Laker who mentioned that several players want the front office to part ways with Metta World Peace. McDonnell also delved into World Peace's frustration regarding his role under Coach Mike Brown. Who knows how World Peace will address these sentiments, particularly after telling CBS Sports Ken Berger last week that Brown remains overly consumed with statistics. 

Whether you focus on World Peace's numbers (4.7 points on 32.7% shooting) or presence (none), he's hardly brought anything of value this year beyond his strong effort three weeks ago against the Clippers. Who knows if the report will prompt World Peace to change his play or lead to more disastrous results. But it's certainly something that could factor into how Brown handles his small-forward rotation.


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Photo: Kobe Bryant, left, drives around Hawks forward Josh Smith during a 2010-11 regular-season game. Credit: Jeff Gross / Getty Images