The Lakers lost their third straight game on Wednesday, falling to the Chicago Bulls 124-108.
The team struggled offensively during the first half, forcing them to play from behind throughout the game. Rebounding was also a weakness for the purple and gold, losing the battle of the boards 48-40. Add that to a poor job defending the three, allowing the Bulls to shoot 52% from beyond the arch and it's easy to see why the Bulls never trailed after the opening minutes of the first.
Los Angeles will have to bounce back quickly as they face the number one team in the West, the Minnesota Timberwolves, on Thursday on the road.
LeBron James' dominance was on full display in the first quarter. He was directly involved in the Laker's first nine points of the quarter. He scored a layup blazing past Nikola Vučević, dunked on the next possession, assisted an Anthony Davis bucket, and hit a three on the wing.
Unfortunately, L.A. didn't take advantage of this hot start from James as they missed three after three while the Bulls scored ten straight points as part of an 18-3 run.
At the 3:41 min mark, we got the return of Gabe Vincent, who's missed significant time with a left knee effusion. He ran the point briefly with Austin Reaves as his running mate in the backcourt.
Vincent's return brings the team closer to full health with only rookie Jalen Hood-Schifino out, but the Lakers couldn't turn that health into wealth and trailed by 11 after one.
Chicago kept that momentum going to start the second. Former Laker current Bull Alex Caruso was his dominant self on the defensive side of the ball. He blocked Cam Reddish from behind and put Reddish on skates on his way to an easy bucket.
I know it's just the regular season and I know it's (probably) just experimenting but I find it hard to see basketball reasons this Rui at center group can ever work. Lakers desperately need to move off of Hayes and/or Wood and upgrade at C I've seen enough.— HarrisInSeasonTournament Faigen (@hmfaigen) December 21, 2023
Andre Drummond, another former Laker, also joined in on the fun, grabbing boards as usual and finishing strong near the rim, including a two-handed jam over Rui Hachimura, who was attempting to play the five.
The deficit grew to 18, but Los Angeles finally got going offensively, with Taurean Prince knocking down a pair of threes as part of L.A.'s 21-5 run. They headed to the halftime down by just six.
In the third quarter, the worst thing to happen wasn't the Bulls taking over and extending their lead back into double-digits; it was Davis rolling his ankle after blocking a Coby White layup attempt. It was the same ankle that had him listed on the injury report as questionable heading into the matchup against the Bulls and the Lakers were forced to sit Davis the rest of the quarter.
Davis has fought through injuries all season, and tonight was no exception. He returned to the floor to start the fourth quarter and tried to bring the Lakers back into the game, but no run was in this team tonight and the Bulls easily put the Lakers to bed.
You have to be dominant on the perimeter or inside to win in the NBA. Against the Bulls, the Lakers were neither.
They allowed Chicago to make 10 threes and shot poorly from deep themselves. Davis was fine in the paint, ending the night with 19 points, but none of the minutes Hachimura played at the five looked good. He's a versatile wing defender, but putting him in that position is disastrous unless the opposing team is playing incredibly small.
Darvin Ham has all rotation players available and yes, time is needed for everyone to be fully ready and off minute restrictions, but he needs to be better.
These rotations were questionable and the results were poor. The team has lost three straight and on paper, this was the easiest game of this road trip. He'll have his work cut out for him against the top-seed Timberwolves on Thursday and the second-best team in the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday.
Let’s see how Ham and the team respond.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.