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Lakers vs. Bulls Preview: Can L.A. keep streaking?

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Anthony Davis is going home, but will he and the Lakers leave with a win? A lot will depend on how seriously they take the Bulls.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers are streaking into Chicago to face the Bulls tonight, and will be looking to extend their current five-game winning streak to six in the latest homecoming for native Chicagoan Anthony Davis.

Their current run has the Lakers off to a 5-1 start, their best opening to a season since the 2010-11 campaign. This team appears to be really good, and while they haven’t played the best schedule so far, they have faced pretty good tests, as every team they’ve played has tried to give them their best shot.

Those efforts haven’t mattered, as the Lakers have weathered them to sport the league’s best defense, allowing just 96.3 points per 100 possessions. And there have been some would-be playoff contenders in there, like the Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs.

Tonight will be different, as the Bulls, at 2-5, are one of the worst teams in an already-bad Eastern Conference. The Bulls may have playoff aspirations, and aren’t truly ruled out in the moribund East, but have only outpaced the outwardly tanking New York Knicks and Washington Wizards so far. Zach LaVine (21.1 points per game on 39.6% shooting from 3-point range) is a good player, and the Bulls have some nice enough young pieces in Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Coby White, but a juggernaut, this team is not.

While that might make the Bulls seem like less of a threat to the Lakers, the purple and gold can only play who is in front of them, and they have to rack up wins now while their schedule is a little lighter so that they’re more well-prepared to weather any late-season storms when their games get tougher again.

Leading the way in those efforts will be Davis, fresh off of his first Western Conference Player of the Week award since coming to Los Angeles. Davis has averaged 32 points on 49.2% shooting to go with 13 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and 2 assists over the Lakers’ last three games. He’s been incredible, and if he has something extra for the Lakers in his only game back in his hometown this year — I mean who knows, iT mAy Be A fReE aGeNcY aUdItIoN — they could cruise to a win.

But if the Lakers just plain cruise, a Bulls team surely chomping at the bit to turn their season around and beat the league’s current darlings might be able to give Davis and Co. some trouble as they wrap up their first road trip of the year. The Bulls — who are only shooting a fifth-worst in the league 31.1% on threes — don’t have the shooters to take advantage of the limited gaps in the Lakers’ hellacious defense in the way some of their prior opponents have been able to, but if LaVine gets loose and L.A. coasts to start the game, the Lakers could make this more difficult on themselves than they need to.

True contenders can win ugly, but the NBA’s most memorable and historic teams are usually known for coming out and stepping on the throats of overmatched opponents. The Lakers haven’t really had a game where they’ve done that from the jump yet, and if they show that tendency against the Bulls, well, there is even more reason to be excited about this season.

Injury Report and Other Notes

  • After this preview first published, we got our first big starting lineup update of the season, as Avery Bradley has been ruled out for the game against the Bulls with a bruised lower right leg, leading to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope starting in his place. Rajon Rondo has also been ruled out, but is progressing in his rehab and could return soon.
  • Kyle Kuzma is going to play, and according to Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register, his minutes restriction has been upped to 26.
  • Not that they were super likely to play, but Talen Horton-Tucker, Kostas Antetokounmpo and Zach Norvell Jr. are all out, as they are on assignment with the South Bay Lakers.
  • Here is a piece from our sister site, Blog A Bull, on one area that the Bulls are weak (the defensive glass) that the Lakers might be able to take advantage of given their size.
  • The Lakers have won their last five games vs. the Bulls, so they’ll actually be looking to create two separate six-game winning streaks tonight.

That’s all for today. The Lakers and Bulls will tip off at 5:00 p.m. PST in the United Center, and the game will be televised locally on Spectrum Sportsnet and nationally on NBA TV.

Enjoy the game everyone.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.