The shorthanded Lakers got key contributions from Isaiah Thomas and Carmelo Anthony — two guys who were out of the NBA a short time ago — along with a 31-point performance from LeBron James, but DeMar DeRozan’s 38 points were too much to handle as the Chicago Bulls beat the Lakers 115-110.
With just one healthy center in DeAndre Jordan, the Lakers again struggled to take care of the ball and protect the paint, committing 19 turnovers and giving up 16 offensive rebounds — several of which came down the stretch as the Bulls did just enough to pull away.
In just his second game back with the Lakers after joining on a 10-day contract due to the Lakers’ COVID-19 issues, Isaiah Thomas got a surprise starting nod from interim head coach David Fizdale. He responded with 13 points on 5-10 in 32 minutes, providing the Lakers with a needed spark of energy in the first half. Carmelo Anthony also provided a nice scoring boost from the bench with 21 points and even contributed on defense a bit with two chase down blocks, but missed a potential game-tying three with five seconds left to ice the loss for the Lakers.
James recovered from an ice-cold shooting start to finish with a 31-point, 15-rebound double-double, and Russell Westbrook chipped in 20 points of his own along with 8 rebounds and 8 assists.
The Lakers were missing several players as well as head coach Frank Vogel and assistant Phil Handy due to NBA health and safety protocols. L.A. will also be without Anthony Davis for at least a month after Davis suffered a left MCL sprain when a Timberwolves player fell into his knee during Friday’s loss to Minnesota.
But the Lakers did get a welcome return on Sunday as Trevor Ariza finally made his season debut after undergoing preseason ankle surgery. Ariza played 15 minutes and scored 3 points in his first game with the Lakers in over 12 years, draining a corner three in his first shot attempt back in purple and gold.
The Bulls, meanwhile, were playing their first game in a week after their own COVID-19 issues forced the postponement of several games and still had several of their own players in health and safety protocols including star guard Zach LaVine. With LaVine out, Compton native and Lakers free agency target DeRozan took over as his midrange game proved unstoppable. Former Lakers Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso also scored in double figures with 19 and 17 points respectively.
The Lakers now head back to Staples Center for a three-game Christmas week homestand against the Suns, Spurs and Nets. The NBA’s COVID-19 issues have put everything in flux, but as of this writing, the Lakers open that homestand against Phoenix on Tuesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. with the game nationally televised on TNT.