The Los Angeles Lakers look to avoid back-to-back losses as they take on a shorthanded Chicago Bulls team that has been hit hard by the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
The Lakers have not lost two consecutive games since the seeding games in the Walt Disney World bubble, and that’s something they’ve continued to pride themselves on as they fight for a second straight championship.
The Bulls undoubtedly want to change that, as they are coming off a loss of their own against the Sacramento Kings.
For the Bulls to defeat the Lakers, they’ll need an incredible performance from Zach LaVine. The young guard is averaging 24.7 points per game this season, and will need that at least to overcome all of their missing players.
Due to the health and safety protocols with regard to the ongoing pandemic, the Bulls will be without Lauri Markannen, Chandler Hutchinson, Ryan Arcidiacono and Tomas Satoransky. Satoransky and Hutchinson have tested positive for the coronavirus, with Markannen and Arcidiacono being considered high-risk close contacts.
Meanwhile for the Lakers, Kentavious Caldwell Pope’s status remains in question as he has missed three games due to a sprained left ankle. They did, however, get Alex Caruso back after a five-game absence due to the aforementioned protocols.
He revealed that he did not test positive, but was rather in close contact with someone who did. He’ll play again for L.A. on Friday, hoping to follow up a solid performance against the San Antonio Spurs.
Caruso was one of the only players who played well in the loss, but L.A. never led, a rarity given the talent on their roster, and the Spurs shot the lights out thanks to porous defense.
Anthony Davis was particularly frustrated by the team’s efforts. “We didn’t play any defense. We didn’t play one lick of defense and let guys do whatever they wanted,” Davis said.
“They came into this game very comfortable, guys made shots, made plays, and we got off to a slow start. Even though we came back and got some stops, we never had that game under control and we never played defense from the opening tip to the final buzzer. That’s why we lost.”
While Davis is partially at fault for the team’s struggles — averaging nearly half of his block count from last season and the Lakers defensive rating plummeting when he is on the court without LeBron James — hopefully his outburst will bring some energy to the locker room.
It is apparent the Lakers are somewhat coasting through the first part of their season. And while it’s not yet a cause for concern, it can be frustrating to watch. Perhaps their meeting with the Bulls high-powered offense can force them to work hard to avoid their second straight loss.
Lakers (6-3) vs. Bulls (4-5)
7:00 p.m. PT, Jan. 8, 2021
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: LeBron James
SG: Dennis Schroder
SF: Kyle Kuzma
PF: Anthony Davis
C: Marc Gasol
Key Reserves: Montrezl Harrell, Alex Caruso, Wesley Matthews, Talen Horton-Tucker, Markieff Morris
Projected Bulls Starting Lineup:
PG: Coby White
SG: Zach LaVine
SF: Otto Porter Jr.
PF: Patrick Williams
C: Wendell Carter Jr.
Key Reserves: Garrett Temple, Denzel Valentine, Thaddeus Young, Daniel Gafford
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