After the returning Pau Gasol got his ceremony and standing ovation, the Lakers' players showed him no such respect, jumping out to a 28-19 lead over the Bulls to end the first quarter behind Jordan Clarkson's 5 points and former Bull Carlos Boozer's 6. After the second quarter, we could officially dub this the "Carlos Boozer Revenge Game." At the half, the bald big man had poured in 14 points on 7-10 shooting with 4 rebounds and 2 blocks. The Lakers still led a possibly imploding Chicago team by 11 points after 2 quarters while outshooting the Bulls 58.7% to 45%, as Chicago struggled with lethargy and spacing issues brought about by their Gasol-Noah frontcourt duo.
Los Angeles maintained control for most of the third, but then Chicago super sub Aaron Brooks knocked down two threes in a thirty second span, leading an 8-2 Bulls run to end the quarter that cut the Lakers lead to four heading into the fourth and final frame. The Lakers looked set to win, but there would be no stopping this tank just yet. The Bulls went on an epic 12-0 run, extending into the overtime they were able to force after stealing the ball from Clarkson, getting a tip in from Gasol, and finally forcing a Jordan Hill miss at the buzzer with the game tied to send the game into overtime (All of which are rounded up here).
The Bulls looked set to win in the first overtime, before the Lakers battled back behind some more Hill 17-footers (calling them jumpers would imply that he, you know, jumped). Then, more clutch plays made by Ellington, Hill, and Clarkson, plus forcing Gasol and his new team into 3-10 shooting in the second over time sent them back to Chicago as losers.
Derrick Rose played badly tonight for Chicago, shooting 7-26 from the field for 17 points as he struggles to regain the MVP form he displayed before his injuries. Clarkson continued to show potential and composure, making plays in over time, including two key free throws to push the Lakers lead to 7 in the second OT. The rookie finished the game with 18 points on 15 shots with 4 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks in a well rounded display of his still raw talents.
This win was a true team effort for the Lakers, with a ton of players chipping in. Robert Sacre played masterful post defense against his former veteran Gasol until he fouled out in over time. Ellington has seemingly stolen Kobe's talents "Space Jam" style, scoring 23 points on 19 shots. Boozer played like his amnesty checks were on the line, scoring 16 points with 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. The true star of the frontcourt was the more tradeable by the minute Jordan Hill, who besides his clutch jumper to send the game to the second over time scored 26 points (two off of his career high) to go with 12 rebounds and 2 blocks.
Long term, it may be better for the Lakers to lose games like this, but it was undeniable fun to watch these Lakers battle with old friend Pau in a thriller. The Lakers next play the New York Knicks on Sunday, in a tank battle that should look something like a scene out of the movie "Fury". See you there.