Bulls/Lakers: Opening Day Loss

J.M. Poulard —  December 25, 2011

The Los Angeles Lakers played their home opener today against the Chicago Bulls in what was an incredibly thrilling game.

The Lakers were defeated 88-87 as the reigning 1st team All-NBA guards both had a chance to win the game for their respective teams late in the fourth quarter.

Granted, the story of the game involved more than just Derrick Rose and Kobe Bryant.

Indeed, during an incredibly short preseason, the Lakers showed two flaws that could easily be corrected one would assume, but that are still problematic so far.

It’s obvious that the purple and gold are currently out of sync on offense and that has translated into turnovers. Plenty of them.

Mike Brown’s squad coughed the ball up 17 times against the Bulls, which resulted in 17 points off turnovers. Although the team lacks a bit of rhythm, one would have thought that the ball security issues that surfaced during the preseason would be addressed; but clearly such is not the case so far.

Kobe Bryant was guilty of eight miscues; most of which came when he dribbled or tried to pass the ball when trapped or in traffic. Perhaps Bryant is still trying to figure out when and how to feed his teammates given that he also had seven turnovers against the Clippers in the Lakers’ first preseason contest.

Nonetheless, his inability to hold onto the ball cost the Lakers late.

With 20 seconds left in the game, the Lakers had the ball at midcourt with a one point lead. They inbounded to Kobe who was expecting to get fouled near midcourt but Chicago instead trapped Bryant and forced a bad pass, which led to Derrick Rose converting the go-ahead bucket with four seconds left on the game clock.

The Black Mamba still had the opportunity to redeem himself as the Lakers called timeout to set up a play for their star. Bryant caught the ball at the top of the key and blew by Luol Deng to get in the lane for a lay-up that the Bulls’ small forward recovered to block from behind.

Although the miscues were part of the reason that the Bulls emerged with the victory, they were also aided by Los Angeles’ inability to defend the 3-point line. On Christmas day, Chicago converted seven-of-15 3-pointers (46.7 percent from 3-point percentage). Derrick Rose was four-of-six from deep and made most of his long-range shots off the dribble.

The Lakers will have to put this loss behind them quickly since they will be moving on to play the Kings tomorrow night. Nonetheless, Brown’s unit had a six-point lead with less than 50 seconds left in the game and allowed Chicago to steal the game from them.

The Lakers were on their way to a victory it seemed, because they did a solid of job of on the boards, outrebounding a physical Bulls frontline 42-41; and also because they benefitted from some solid play from Steve Blake (12 points on four-for-nine shooting).

Kobe Bryant may have had some trouble holding onto the ball in this game, but he was his usual self as far as scoring against the Bulls. He made jumpers from different areas on the court, took the ball to the basket and got fouled.

Part of the reason that Chicago remained within striking distance throughout can be attributed to the absence of Andrew Bynum who is currently serving a four-game suspension.

Normally the Lakers would have three scorers to carry the load but on this night they had to rely heavily on the exploits of Kobe given Joakim Noah’s tough defense on Gasol. The Spaniard scored early in the game on the block but slowly drifted out to the perimeter as Noah kept pushing him out outside of the paint.

Worth noting, Matt Barnes did not play in this game, as Devin Ebanks and Metta World Peace got all of the minutes at small forward.

J.M. Poulard