Written by: Morgan Cohen
When the Lakers face off with the Chicago Bulls, it is usually guaranteed to be a good game: the Bulls are young, athletic, and fast and always come to play. There are also a myriad of storylines surrounding any Lakers-Bulls matchup, including (but not limited to) a rematch of the 1991 Finals, Phil Jackson winning his first six rings with the Bulls and his last five (and counting) with the Lakers and the media’s quest to compare Kobe with MJ.
This time around, we are able to add to the mix: Chicago native Shannon Brown facing the team he loved growing up, a Bulls team that is currently first in their division (this deep into the season) for the first time since Phil left and of course, the Kobe Bryant-Tom Thibodeau connection. I only just learned of it and thought it was fascinating! As an assistant coach in Philadelphia, while Kobe was at Lower Merion High School, Thibodeau was there to witness scrimmages between Kobe and NBA players set up by 76ers coach John Lucas. Thibodeau says he saw something special in him at that early age. Kobe himself credits Thibodeau with helping him learn about preparedness and the fundamentals of the game, calling him crucial to his development – quite a compliment coming from the hardest working man in the NBA.
As for last night’s game, I though it was a well-fought contest; the Bulls brought everything they had against the Lakers. Coming into the game, both teams were two of the top rebounding teams in the league and at the top of their respective divisions as well. Kobe started off hot, scoring seven points in the first two minutes; including a spectacular left handed scoop shot between three defenders! LO had a good start in the first quarter as well, with seven points and three boards of his own. Unfortunately Pau’s perfect game did not carry over in any respect; Joakim Noah had a lot to do with it, being the manic scrappy defender that he is. Noah is so energetic and is really the emotional heart of his team – his tremendous hustle and defense is often more important than the double doubles he routinely registers.
The Bulls definitely beat the Lakers on boards and hustle for most of the night, but they were unable to capitalize on them due to turnovers and missed free throws. Ron-Ron had another quiet night, getting into some early foul trouble followed by a cold stretch of shooting in the third. I kept expecting at least one or two of them to fall, but the ball stayed stubbornly out of the basket.