Records: Lakers 9-38, Last in the West; 25-19, 4th in the East
Offensive ratings: Lakers 97.1, 29th in NBA; Bulls 100.7, 26th in the NBA
Defensive ratings: Lakers 108.3, Last in the NBA; Bulls 100.3, 8th in the NBA
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Clarkson, Williams, Kobe, Randle, Hibbert
Bulls: Rose, Butler, Tony Snell, Taj Gibson, Pau
The Lakers Coming in: The Lakers have lost 7 games in a row, tied for their longest losing streak of the season. Their recent games have offered some glimmers of hope for a win, but the team has either not been able to close (Dallas) or been outclassed by much superior opponents in the 4th quarter (San Antonio). These aren’t new themes, but for a team which consistently finds ways to drop games, it is impressive in its own sad and frustration inducing ways.
Beyond the losses, I don’t have much to say about this team. Recent news is that Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell were chosen to play in the Rising Stars game on All-Star weekend while teammate Julius Randle was not. I actually think Randle was deserving, but the format of the game — USA vs. the World — and the fact that two players who will play internationally for other countries (Karl Anthony-Towns plays for the Dominican Republic and Jordan Clarkson will likely play for the Philippines this summer) are on the USA team means deserving American players didn’t make the cut. Randle is one such guy.
I’d get upset about this — and I’m sure Randle sees this as another reason to play with a chip on his shoulder — but with the longer All-Star break and the game being in Toronto, I might just enjoy a vacation on the beach rather than trudging around in freezing temperatures. I get that Randle is a young player who would (probably) appreciate the recognition, but some time off the refresh never hurt anybody. Or maybe I’m just old.
The Bulls Coming in: There may not be a more confounding team in the league than the Bulls. After a string of really good wins to start the year — they won 6 games in a row all against Eastern playoff teams — they have been as inconsistent as any team in the league. One night they get blown out by the Hawks and another they beat the Cavs handily. They needed OT to beat the Sixers, but beat the Pistons by double digits a few nights later.
They have been banged up this year which contributes to their problems. Derrick Rose has shown flashes, but always seems one jump-stop away from some missed games. Joakim Noah is out for the year after injuring his shoulder. Mike Dunleavy is close to returning, but has been out all year recovering from back surgery. Tonight while Rose will play, they will not only be without Noah and Dunleavy, but Nikola Mirotic and Kirk Hinrich as well.
Having so many guys in and out of the lineup has only put more pressure on Jimmy Butler, but he has responded well. For my money he is the best two-way shooting guard in the league, scoring well and offering top level defense on the other end. He seems to have an endless motor and is just a blue-collar dude who looks like he also enjoys talking a little sh*t. That’s my kind of player.
Bulls Blogs: Blog-A-Bull is worth checking out for all your Bulls related news and analysis.
Keys to game: There are no “keys” to the game, but I do have things that I’m interested in watching:
- The Rose/Clarkson match up should be fun. Both are explosive guards who have a knack for scoring the ball. Both offer very good floaters and potentially explosive finishing ability if given the right sort of opening.
- Pau and Kobe, reunited again? It’s unclear if Kobe will play tonight, but if he does it will be nice to see him and Pau share the floor again, even if as opponents.
- A potential Julius Randle vs. Bobby Portis battle. Portis is earning somewhat of a cult following in Chicago and around the league. He has a versatile game, good size, and…some crazy eyes. Randle had one of his best games of the year against the Mavs on Tuesday and I’m interested in seeing if he can continue that against Gibson at first and then Portis later.
- Hoping for a bounce back game from D’Angelo Russell and how he responds, on the floor, after the end of the Mavs game that saw him pulled with two minutes left for Byron Scott reasons.
- Jimmy Butler doing Jimmy Butler things. It would be nice to see Kobe and Butler battle, just to see the old dog and the new breed face off.
Considering how banged up the Bulls are, I would not be surprised if this game is closer than the team’s records imply it should be. The Bulls have an almost even efficiency differential which implies their record is better than they are as a team. The Lakers are just as bad as their record implies, but have the ability to stay in games when their shots fall. Considering the Bulls are not an electric offensive team, I could see a close first half or the Lakers making a run at some point in the 2nd half to make this game worth watching near the end. We shall see.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TNT. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.