The surging Lakers take on the just kinda hangin’ out Bulls tonight in Chicago. Los Angeles is coming of a Kyle Kuzma led victory against the Celtics Tuesday – their 3rd W in a row. The Bulls, while coming off two losses, have been playing .500 ball recently.
The last game against the Bulls featured a second half comeback for the Lakers 103-94 victory. The Bulls are searching for an identity while mixing Zach Lavine back into rotation. They will probably face the Lakers without Kris Dunn who has been out with a concussion.
This was supposed to be a tanking year for the Bulls. They traded Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves and cobbled together a team they thought would earn them a shot at the #1 Lottery Pick. Unfortunately for them, like the Indians in Major League, they just keep on winning.
Lead by the emerging rookie Lauri Markkanen (15.4/7.6/1.4) and the facially resilient Nikola Mirotic (17/6.5/1.5) the Bulls find themselves too good to fully tank and too bad to contend for a real playoff run. On the season they are tied with the Lakers at 28th in Offense with an Offensive Rating of 101.8 which is not good. Defensively the Bulls are 25th at 107.7 which is also not good.
For their part, it is worth noting that it is the end of January and the Lakers are still ranked 11th in defense at 104.8. Watching this team night in and night out it is undeniable that they are a decent defensive team. Expect the Lakers to be without Lonzo Ball. Fortunately they still have Lord Kyle Kuzma of Flint.
The Lakers are still number one in pace and scoring around the basket. Look for the team to push pace and defensively fill lanes. The Bulls are going to want to drive and kick. Their victories have fed off solid shooting coming off the pick and roll game. This could be a game where Kentavious Caldwell-Pope jumping lanes leads to a lot fast break points.
Julius Randle has powerfully lead this team, with Jordan Clarkson scoring at will like the All Star game is back in Las Vegas. If the Lakers can focus on what has got them three consecutive victories, winning seven of their last nine, they should be able to grind this one out. The Lakers need to come out aggressive defensively, push pace offensively, and unleash Kuzma for 5-8 shots from beyond the arc. The Bulls don’t really want to win anyway. Let’s see the boys make it four in a row tonight.
Where you can watch: 5:00pm start on Spectrum Sportsnet.