The Los Angeles Lakers entered Staples Center with a chance to get a winning streak going as they met the Chicago Bulls in a battle of rebuilding franchises. The only game on the NBA slate on Tuesday featured exciting rookies in Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Lauri Markkanen.
At the same time, second-year players like Brandon Ingram, Denzel Valentine, and Kris Dunn were also going to provide a look at the newer generation of players. Head coaches Luke Walton and Fred Hoidberg were handed young rosters and the confidence of their respective front office, attempting to capitalize on optimism toward a brighter future.
The 7-10 Lakers find themselves only a half-game back of the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth spot in the Western Conference, while the 3-11 Bulls are the second-worst team in the East.
Walton went with his usual starting lineup of Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Ingram, Kuzma, and Brook Lopez. The Bulls countered with Kris Dunn, Justin Holiday, Valentine, Markkanen, and Robin Lopez.
The opening quarter got started off on the right foot for the Lakers, with a Ball drop off from the high post setting up a Kuzma dunk at the rim. The Lakers were then able to open up a four-point lead with back-to-back 3-pointers from Brandon Ingram and Kuzma.
Chicago was able to respond quickly though, as a lay-up from Robin Lopez and corner three from Valentine gave them an 11-10 lead. The three lead changes in a matter of five minutes set the stage for a competitive affair.
However, things did get a tad bit sloppy while both teams were trying to create for each other.
A Kuzma 3-pointer was able to give the Lakers back the lead, and the young forward improved to 4-for-4 with 10 points. Ingram was also able to get involved with a beautiful left-handed scooping lay-up, while Ball threw down a slam dunk on a lob from Ingram on their next possession.
Valentine, a much-improved shooter this season, was hot from beyond the arc early, knocking down his second 3-pointer of the game. He was able to match Kuzma’s hot start, which was stopped by foul trouble, by also opening on a 4-for-4 to start.
Luckily for the Lakers, the rest of the Bulls team was cold from the field. At the end of the first quarter, Chicago held a 27-23 lead.
The sloppy play caught up to the Lakers, as they had six turnovers in the first quarter.
A strong start to the second quarter totaled a 12-3 run for the Bulls, as they opened up their largest lead of the game at 32-24. Los Angeles was struggling in their half-court execution, becoming stagnant on offense.
The Bulls were led in the second quarter by an Antonio Blakeney, a two-year player making an immediate impact off the bench. After ending the first on a mid-range jump shot, he began the second quarter with nine consecutive points for the Bulls.
The Chicago bench was ecstatic watching the undrafted player excel, finding his groove whether from the pick-and-roll or open jump shots.
Blakeney’s streak reached a peak when he was able to throw down a breakaway dunk on Julius Randle. It drew quite the reaction from the bench and Blakeney, who received a technical foul for taunting.
Despite being the fourth worst 3-point shooting team in the NBA (33.7 percent), the Bulls at one point were 4-for-9 from deep, while out-hustling the Lakers on 50/50 plays.
Walton was forced to bring back his starters in the game, as the Lakers was having a tough time finding each other on their rotations. They managed to get back into the game with their defense, as they were able to get a string of stops.
That led to transition opportunities, with Ingram slamming it down on a euro-step and Kuzma hitting a corner three to bring the lead back to within 41-32.
Markkanen and Dunn were able to put an end to the Lakers brief run with consecutive 3-pointers, as they picked up their shooting from the field. Their success on offense translated to the defensive end as well, rotating properly and limiting easy opportunities around the rim.
A Kuzma three-point play cut the Bulls’ lead down to 12, but the Lakers offense was having a hard time finding any rhythm.
Their offensive struggles resulted in a 56-42 halftime deficit. Kuzma’s 18 points and Ingram’s all-around contributions led the way, with Ball struggling from the field. Blakeney’s 15 points helped the Bulls extend their lead, as his team shot 7-for-14 from three-point range in the first half.
The Bulls got the second half scoring started with a corner three from Holiday, which was later followed by drawing a foul from Brook Lopez on a 3-point attempt. Los Angeles was breaking towards getting the game in single digits, but their lack of any consistency gave the Bulls opportunities to push it back out.
A Ball straightaway three gave him his second field goal of the night, to go along with eight rebounds, three assists, and a steal. Ball’s assist count should have been more, but the Lakers missed plenty of open opportunities.
Their 8-for-23 shooting from 3-point range was indicative of their struggles this season. Chicago ramped up their defense to create a 68-54 lead halfway into the third quarter, as the Lakers were unable to buy a bucket.
Clarkson was able to knock down three free throws on a fortunate call, while a Randle bucket off an offensive rebound cut the lead down to 10. The scoring big man off the bench then used his muscle to body up Robin Lopez for a three-point lead, bringing them within single digits.
Although the Lakers were having one of their sloppiest games of the year, they were still within striking distance. The crowd then erupted when Randle completely stuffed a dunk attempt from Bobby Portis, as he took the transition opportunity and converted his second three-point play of the game.
The free throw brought the Lakers to within just six points, as they had put together a comeback with a complete change in momentum. They put together a 27-12 run to bring them within just four points, hitting a minute left in the third quarter. It was during this time the Chicago offense got completely cold, setting the stage for Los Angeles.
The Bulls, coming in as the youngest team in the NBA, were showing signs of youth, allowing the Lakers to climb back into the game. At the end of the third quarter, the Lakers brought themselves back within three points, as the Bulls took a 75-72 lead into the final quarter.
Randle was the true catalyst of this run, as his interior scoring set the stage for his team. He started the fourth his a patented lefty hook shot in the paint, but the Bulls answered with a Valentine three-pointer and Portis tip-in three-point play.
However, just like the entire season, the Lakers showed resiliency once again. Clarkson was able to hit a corner three-pointer on an assist from Kuzma, while Randle found a cutting Josh Hart for a layup that tied the game at 80 points apiece.
Hoiberg then called a timeout, as the Lakers had captured the momentum and had the Staples Center crowd on their feet. A bit of a cold stretch for Los Angeles allowed the Bulls to retake an eight-point lead, as Walton inserted Ball and Caldwell-Pope back into the game. Ball was able to make an immediate impact, nailing a three to end Chicago’s 7-0 run.
The Lakers brought it down to an 89-85 lead on a Brook Lopez scoop and score, while his brother was called for an offensive foul the next possession. Los Angeles was then able to once again tie the game on an acrobatic three-point play from Ingram, drawing contact and finishing while leaning to his left. With less than four minutes remaining, the game was tied 89-89.
Caldwell-Pope then put his stamp on the game once again by cleaning up a Brook Lopez miss for a lay-up. He then knocked down a three in transition on a steal from Ball, giving the Lakers a 94-89 lead. Markkanen then responded with a three-pointer of his own with the clock down, silencing the crowd.
Ball then cleaned up a missed three-pointer and threw a beautiful outlet that settled into Caldwell-Pope’s hands for a breakaway three-pointer. The Lakers held onto their 97-94 lead with a minute and a half remaining, close to stealing a win.
Ingram then drove hard to the basket, once again absorbing the contact from Lopez for a strong finish at the rim. They then ran out the clock and were able to get an offensive rebound, with Valentine mistakingly fouling Ball off the ball for a free-throw and the ball.
A series of free-throws extended their lead to 103-94, as the Lakers held on for an impressive comeback victory. The Lakers found themselves tied for the eighth spot in the West, notching their eighth win of the season. Los Angeles truly cleaned up their sloppy play, having just one turnover in the second half after 13 in the first.
Randle’s double-double, including all 10 points in the second half, led the resurgence, while Caldwell-Pope’s 21 points helped stamp the victory. Ingram finished with 17 points, five rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal, while the defense limited the Bulls to just 38 points in the second half.
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