It was less than ten days ago when the Oklahoma City Thunder manhandled the Los Angeles Lakers in front of a rowdy Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd. The game, which was ugly enough with the final score, was made even more disheartening when an already-shorthanded team missing Lonzo Ball, had both Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma sidelined due to in-game injuries. It was an overall deflating night in LakerLand, leaving many fans in the bleakest mindsets so far about this season’s trajectory.
Fast Forward to this game, the Lakers have not only slowly gotten back to full health, but have also racked off three-straight wins, the most recent being their thrilling win against the top team in the East, their historic rival, the Boston Celtics.
The Lakers’ productive home-court stint was a huge shot of optimism the team and its’ fanbase needed, and crucial considering the squad is about to depart the friendly confines of Los Angeles, embarking on a five game road-trip.
The teams’ first stop is in the Windy City, when the Lakers take on the Chicago Bulls. For a Bulls’ team who many projected to end up with the worst record in the league prior to the season, quickly exceeded expectations as at one point they rallied off seven straight wins. The teams’ winning seemingly coincided with the return of forward Nikola Mirotic (who was sidelined from for the early part of the season from a broken face due to the fist of teammate Bobby Portis, and from an upset stomach due to the combination of jelly and mayonnaise).
One of the biggest strengths of this team is the aforementioned front-court combination of Mirotic and Portis, which has been a true tour de force for the Bulls. In nearly 700 shared possessions together on the court, the Bulls are outscoring their opponents by an average of 13.3 points, which compared to the rest of the league in point differential, is in the 97th percentile.
However, the Bulls as a whole, have not performed particularly well on either side of the court. Offensively, they are eerily similar to the Lakers in term of offensive rating (Bulls are 28th, the Lakers are 29th) and are mostly middle of the pack, if not in the bottom-ten of the league in all offensive categories. Their scoring woes are not unfamiliar to fans of the Lakers this season, however the Bulls have not performed nearly as well as the Lakers have on defense. The Bulls are currently, and ironically, 23rd in the league in defensive rating.
The area the Bulls specifically struggle defending is at the rim. Chicago currently is allowing opponents to get to the rim 34 percent of the time, and shoot 63.8 percent on shots within 4’, which ranks 20th in the league. This is where the Lakers can possibly unlock a lot of scoring opportunities, as the Lakers are first in the entire league in frequency in offensive possessions at the rim, 41 percent of the time, and are 13th in efficiency, making their shots at a 63 percent clip.
This may be easier said than done, but the Lakers simply can not afford to overlook this Bulls team. This game is a great opportunity to build some momentum on the road, and with the likes of Toronto and OKC in the horizon, the purple and gold need to find a way to get this one. Oh yeah, also, make some free-throws.
TV: Spectrum Sportsnet
Time: 5:00 p.m. PT
Statistics provided by: Cleaningtheglass.com