It’s funny to imagine that the Lakers were pissed at themselves for how they played while beating a fellow title contender in the Milwaukee Bucks in their most recent game, but between Anthony Davis saying he “sucked” in that win to the Lakers coming out and putting the absolute clamps on the Windy City Bulls (plus Zach LaVine) in a hilariously dominant, 101-90 victory in which they led by 30 points at halftime, it’s not too far-fetched to imagine that they weren’t happy with themselves for their performance the other night.
This game was a lot more of a blowout than the final score would indicate. I mean seriously, look at these first-half stats:
Take it one step further, per #Lakers:— Allie Clifton (@RealAClifton) January 24, 2021
Chicago’s 33 first-half points are the fewest scored by a Lakers’ opponent through the first two quarters since Jan. 3, 2016 vs. Phoenix (22).
Now, that didn’t mean the Lakers would get to coast to a victory. This team doesn’t like to make it that easy on our hearts (or on those of us who have to write buzzer-beating recaps, but I digress). They inevitably let their foot off the gas, and allowed the Bulls to cut the deficit to 17 heading into the fourth by equaling their first half points total (33) in just a quarter.
Thankfully for L.A., the all-bench unit of Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, Montrezl Harrell, Wesley Matthews and Talen Horton-Tucker that Frank Vogel went to at the start of the fourth quarter got the team back on-track with the jolt of enthusiasm and execution they needed, holding the Bulls to 0 points in the first five minutes of the period to re-extend the lead and all-but ice this one.
But if Davis was mad at himself on Thursday, the Chicago kid also made good on his promise to be better in his hometown. He looked like the tallest kid in a youth rec leg on the glass against the Bulls’ hopelessly overmatched frontcourt, and finished the first half with 26 points before ending the night with a season-high 37 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks. His co-star, LeBron James, wrapped up the evening with a fairly effortless 17 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists.
Those two are pretty much always great, though, even when they’re below their own standards (which they very much were not tonight, third quarter lethargy notwithstanding). More notable than their play, however, was the continuing defensive excellence of Caruso, who came off the bench and put the absolute clamps on LaVine — who had 38 in the last matchup — to help the Lakers hound him into just 21 points on 9-23 shooting tonight. Horton-Tucker aided Caruso in that department, getting his first playing time in two games during his own Chicago homecoming, and rewarded Vogel for dusting him off by giving the Lakers a dose of energy and 10 points on 3-6 shooting.
This is now the Lakers’ eighth win in a row over the Bulls, a franchise-long streak for the purple and gold, and their 9-0 start on the road is a similar continuation of a franchise-best mark. They are 13-4 overall on the season now, and will have their next chance to keep this roll going in Cleveland on Monday. And if LeBron approaches his homecoming anything like Davis did the start of his, well... pray for the Cavs.