There’s a handful of games a year where even though the team wins, you sort of just have to shrug and say “well that was fun, even though I was mostly mad the entire time”. This was one of those games.
The Lakers beat the Bulls 103-94 and if that’s all you knew, you’d give a golf clap and move on. Like we told you in our preview, the Bulls were 3-11 heading into this game and the Lakers, while only 7-10, had just come off a wrecking of the Nuggets. So, you know, this thing went as planned, right?
The Lakers came out a bit flat, but even more sloppy. The Bulls, meanwhile, came out aggressive defensively, in a nice offensive groove, and playing with confidence. This translated to a close 1st quarter, but one the Bulls pretty much controlled, exiting with a 4 point lead.
Come the 2nd quarter, though, that’s where things got bad for the Lakers. The Bulls did not take their foot off the gas and the Lakers continued their lax play, coughing up the ball on one end and ceding too many open shots on the other. By the time halftime came, the Lakers were down by 14 after losing the 2nd period 29-19.
After the intermission, one would have thought the Lakers would have come out with some fire and ready to compete. One would have thought.
Lakers needed to come out sharp to trim some of this lead in the opening minutes. They did not. *narrator voice*
— Forum Blue & Gold (@ForumBlueGold_) November 22, 2017
So, what did Luke Walton do? He turned to his early season bench unit which had played so well to start the season. Out went Lonzo and Lopez and Ingram, in came Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and Josh Hart. And with those substitutions, the tenor of the game changed. Suddenly, the Lakers defense came alive, fueled by the switching and swarming and scrambling that unit is so good at.
Suddenly, the Bulls were no longer hitting shots as Lakers defenders flew all over the court contesting shots. The Lakers then turned those rebounds into transition opportunities that they converted. Play after play the Lakers just battled, making every extra effort defensively and that translated to an energy offensively that put the Bulls back on their heels.
— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) November 22, 2017
Julius Randle really was in the middle of it all, but key shots from Jordan Clarkson, some stout post defense from Josh Hart, some excellent drives and finishes from Ingram…and suddenly this was a game again. A mini Bulls run put the Lakers back down by 7, but then Walton again made substitutions, bringing back KCP and Lonzo, then later Kuzma, and the Lakers were able to hit enough shots and seal the deal.
I thought our guy Pete said it best in the wake of it all:
This game was everything good & bad about the 2017-18 Lakers.
-Offense looking like a bunch of confused turkeys
-Length on closeouts bothered other team's 3PT shooters
-Played with heart
Beating CHI at home shouldn't be that hard, but I'll take it.
— Laker Film Room (@LakerFilmRoom) November 22, 2017
The game was not pretty for most of it. And, considering before the game started Luke Walton actually said the team had learned from the Suns game about taking opponents with bad records seriously only to have his team come out and play exactly like they weren’t really taking the Bulls seriously, one had a right to be frustrated. But the Lakers got the W and, for at least one night, find themselves in the 8th spot in the West with their 8-10 record.
All’s well that ends well, I guess. Now, a few notes…
*Another night, another game where I was impressed with Brandon Ingram. 17 points on 7-15 shooting, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, and only 1 turnover. He played with poise, finished expertly on his drives and when his lane was cut off he made the right reads as a passer. He’s putting it together more and more frequently and it’s fun to watch.
*8 points on 13 shots for Lonzo…so he was bad, right? Nope. He had another 13 rebounds, dished 4 assists, and only committed a single turnover. He pushed the pace, hit two 3-pointers, and was good defensively. His 1st half was not great, but he picked himself up in the 2nd half, found some energy plays, and made a difference down the stretch.
*21 points on only 11 shots from KCP. He hit 4 of his 7 threes, including a couple of huge ones to help cut into the Bulls lead and then to keep the momentum going late in the 4th. For a guy who mostly does just enough on both sides of the ball to remain a quality rotation player, KCP was much more than that this game and was key to the win.
*Jordan Clarkson was not happy when he got pulled in the 4th, but I thought it was the right move. JC really did play well and his scoring was important in the 3rd when the Lakers made their push, but down the stretch I thought the Lakers needed more of a playmaker and that’s what Lonzo provided. I thought Luke handled this well.
*Kuzma didn’t do much scoring in the 2nd half (4 points), but without his 18 points in the 1st half the Lakers probably trail by more than 20. Kuzma hit 3’s, attacked closeouts with good drives, and was his typically excellent self as a cutter. I still think he needs to tighten up his defense around the basket and work the boards harder, but this dude can get buckets in bunches and the Lakers needed all his 22 points this game.