Chicago at LAL, Nov 20: LA Doused

The Chicago Bulls were coming off of a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on a back-to-back against both LA teams before defeating the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night. Despite the Lakers de-facto leader D'angelo Russell coming back from a sore knee that had him sit out their latest Spurs loss, the team struggled early against the imposing Bulls squad. After some defensive woes on the part of the Bulls, an impressive offensive play by Brandon Ingram and a huge buzzer beater 3 by Lou Williams, the Lakers tied the Bulls at the 1st with 30 apiece.

The Lakers had huge moments in the second quarter. Lou Williams looked unstoppable, making needed shots and led the Lakers bench to a huge run over the Bulls. The Lakers played like veterans and looked the part, getting easy buckets off dimes from Lou to Nance and made picking the ball from the Bulls look easy. This didn’t save them from suddenly getting 3 turnovers at the end of the half after previously protecting the ball amazingly well and never giving the ball to the Bulls. Chicago capitalized on these turnovers and were up one at the half.

Julius Randle came out of the half with something to prove. He was fouled attacking the basket multiple times and set an aggressive tone for the Lakers starters, who previously hadn't gotten fouled at all. Randle then looked like the Randle of yesteryear, turning the ball over and forcing his game. The tone of the game changed towards the end of the 3rd quarter, Jimmy Butler took over offensively for Chicago and the Lakers shots turned cold. The Lakers looked stilted and tired on defense, eventually getting outscored by 4, but allowing 8 points on turnovers in the quarter.

The fourth quarter followed the third in tone, with Los Angeles seeming lost in their interior, allowing Jimmy Butler and co to penetrate seemingly at will. The Lakers now-usual hot hands in the fourth quarter were doused while Jimmy Butler reigned. His offense dominance was felt everywhere, scoring 40 on 14/23 shooting and hitting 12 free throws. Julius Randles usual reliable rebounding was completey stifled. He only brought down 3 himself and the team was out rebounded by 29 overall. The shooting woes of Jordan Clarkson and D’angelo Russell can’t be underplayed here, they shot 4/23 combined and their shot selection was questionable at best. However, that would do a disservice to Jimmy Butler and the Chicago team, who outworked the Lakers on the boards and got to line way too often. I would be doing another disservice if I didn’t mention Larry Nance Jr’s play during this matchup. Nance played amazingly efficiently and was the entire motor behind the Lakers sudden comebacks into being competitive and appearing coherent. This was a winnable game in Staples Center. The Lakers fell apart on defense frequently but made big play after big play to stay competitive. A little more interior defense, a few more offensive rebounds and just a tad less minutes for Jordan Clarkson would have put a W in the Lakers column.

Incidentally, the Lakers will need those first two suggestions when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday. Russell Westbrook will muscle into the paint and out rebound your bigs while doing it. The Lakers will need better offensive games from their bigs and huge defensive stops from their guards to best a team with a behemoth like Westbrook at the helm.