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LeBron leads Lakers past Hawks for fourth straight win

LOS ANGELES (AP) – LeBron James scored 23 of his 32 points in the second half, Malik Monk added a season-high 29 and the Los Angeles Lakers held off the Atlanta Hawks 134-118 yesterday for their first four-game winning streak of the season.

Avery Bradley and Talen Horton-Tucker scored 21 points apiece for the Lakers, who have won five of six overall while remaining perfect on a five-game homestand that ends today.

With Anthony Davis the only major contributor still absent from their injury-plagued roster, the Lakers had a season-high 37 assists and continued to play their most cohesive basketball of their tumultuous season.

“We’re getting our guys back,” said James, who also had nine assists, eight rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots.

“It’s literally that simple. We’re starting to see what we have because guys are in the lineup. Soon we’re getting (Kendrick) Nunn as well, and not too long after that, AD returns. When you’re building a team with depth and chemistry on the floor, and when too many guys are out, it’s too early to gauge it.”

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James dunks the ball during the first half of the game against the Atlanta Hawks. PHOTO: AP

Trae Young had 25 points and 14 assists, and John Collins scored 21 points in his return to the Hawks, who have lost five of seven amid significant coronavirus problems. Atlanta dropped to 2-3 on a six-game trip, its longest of the season.

Los Angeles led by 19 early in the fourth quarter, but Atlanta trimmed the margin to 10 before the Lakers closed it out with dramatic dunks from James and Monk, who soared through the lane for a put-back slam with 1:56 to play.

Monk scored 21 points in the first half while hitting eight of his first nine shots in his latest impressive performance for the Lakers, who signed him as a free agent in the off-season.

Monk averaged 20.7 points per game in Los Angeles’ previous six games starting on Christmas, showing off his quick-release jumper with multiple three-pointers in every outing.

“What we love about him is that he can create, and he can be a finisher,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s playing really well in all ways you can offensively.”

Coach Nate McMillan is still away from the Hawks under the NBA’s health and safety protocols, but starters Collins and Bogdan Bogdanovic returned to uniform after clearing the protocols earlier in the week. Collins had missed the Hawks’ previous five games, and Bogdanovic scored 15 points after missing the last four.

Once again, Atlanta’s main problem was defence: The Hawks yielded at least 130 points for the eighth time since November and in its fourth consecutive loss.

“We’ve got to do a better job,” Atlanta interim coach Joe Prunty said. “Because in a game like tonight, you have a guy like Malik Monk and Avery Bradley who weren’t necessarily causing the problems, but they were getting the benefits. We need to be better defensively.”

Young added nine rebounds to another outstanding performance despite a lower back injury that forced him to miss Atlanta’s last game in Sacramento after he dropped 56 in Portland last Monday.