Lakers vs Bulls: Three Things to Know (1/8/21)

by 24USATVJan. 8, 2021, 3 p.m. 27
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The Lakers (6-3) are primed for their second back to back of the young season with the Chicago Bulls (4-5) in town for a 7 p.m. tip on Spectrum SportsNet.

Below are three things to know about the matchup:

DEFENSIVE SLIPPAGE

In Thursday night’s front end of this back to back, the Lakers simply weren’t good enough defensively, allowing San Antonio too many open looks throughout an evening in which the Spurs hit 16 threes. Anthony Davis explained as much after the game.

L.A. came into the Spurs game ranked second in defense, but dropped to sixth after the 118-109 loss. They had a few things working against them. First, they were coming off a 4-0 road trip, and NBA history often dictates a false sense of security for teams in their first game back at home after a trip. On that trip, they’d beaten the Spurs twice in San Antonio, creating a hungry team determined not to lose yet again. Furthermore, LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t play in the first two meetings, and his capabilities as a stretch five caused the Lakers problems, as they hadn’t played against an elite shooting big yet this season. Aldridge spaced the Lakers out, and scored a game-high 28 points on 11 of 18 FG’s, including 3 of 7 3’s. Frank Vogel credited the Spurs for playing better, and more aggressively.

The Bulls bring their 18th ranked offense into Staples on Friday, where they should face a sharper Lakers defense than we saw on Thursday. This group of Lakers has been very good at bouncing back from their lesser outings, dating back to the start of last season.

CHICAGO KIDS

The Lakers boast a pair of Chicago kids in their rotation, headlined by Anthony Davis, with Talen Horton-Tucker playing a supporting role. Davis is coming off a game that frustrated him defensively, though he still managed 23 points on 11 of 17 FG’s, in which 10 of his 11 buckets all came at the rim against the small Spurs line ups, and he hit just one of six jump shots. The Perspectives Charter School grad added 10 boards, three blocks and three assists plus a steal in his 34 minutes.

THT, a product of Simeon High School – home to Derrick Rose, Jabari Parker, Kendrick Nunn, Zack Norvell and others – played well off the bench on Thursday, scoring 10 points with four boards and three assists. He repeatedly got to the rim in the second quarter as L.A. tried to narrow a double-digit lead. Needed for more time on the court due to a sprained left ankle that kept Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on the shelf for a third straight game, the 20-year-old played 21 minutes.

BETTER BULLS

Chicago had a rough start to the season, getting blown out 124-104 by Atlanta, and 125-106 to Indiana before a narrow loss to Golden State. They rebounded with two straight wins at Washington, before splitting their next four games heading into Friday’s matchup. In three games against Western teams, they beat both Dallas and Portland before a 128-124 loss at Sacramento.

The Lakers haven’t seen the Bulls in over a calendar year, as Chicago never made it to Staples prior to the Pandemic. L.A. beat Chicago 118-112 in a game they trailed by 17 at halftime, before their bench reeled off a huge second half comeback, including a 38-19 fourth-quarter advantage, to take the W in the Windy City. Kyle Kuzma scored 11 of his 15 points in that final quarter, and Quinn Cook added eight of his 17 points in the fourth as well. Alex Caruso was his typically helpful self. Speaking of Caruso, he played on Thursday night after five straight games missed due to health and safety protocols, scoring eight point on 3-of-3 shooting.

This season, Zach LaVine leads the Bulls with 24.7 points per game, and Wendell Carter, Jr. with 8.2 rebounds, but it’s been their bench – composed of Garrett Temple, Denzel Valentine, Thaddeus Young and Daniel Gafford – that’s had a better net rating.

Second-year guard Coby White, who starts next to LaVine, dropped a career-high 36 points in Chicago’s loss to Sacramento on Wednesday, and has scored 20+ points in three straight games.

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