Outside of the Los Angeles Lakers, there is perhaps no team with more ties to L.A. than the Chicago Bulls. Fans will get a chance to celebrate that L.A. connection — as well as the returns of Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball — when the Lakers face the Bulls on Monday night.
Caruso returns for his first game against the Lakers since joining Chicago in free agency. Amid rampant stories of how Caruso’s free agency unfolded, fans will likely give a massive ovation to the beloved guard who helped bring L.A. a championship in 2020.
Meanwhile, Ball, Zach Lavine and DeMar DeRozan all have personal connections to the city, with Ball — from Chino Hills — and Lavine attending UCLA as well as DeRozan — from Compton — attending USC.
Beyond the emotional component of Monday’s game, this figures to be an exciting matchup between two of the NBA’s most interesting teams. After a flurry of offseason moves, the Bulls have hit the ground running with the No. 5 defense and the No. 6 overall net rating.
They have done this largely without two of their starters. All-Star center Nikola Vucevic has been out for about one week in the NBA’s health and safety protocols after testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19). They are also without Patrick Williams, who is out 4-6 months with torn ligaments in his wrist.
It’s been DeRozan and Lavine who have put the team on their backs, combining for 52 points per game while Ball and Caruso do the majority of the distributing and work on defense.
Meanwhile, the Lakers have had a very different path. Injuries have derailed their ability to build chemistry, as they’ve been without at least four key pieces for nearly the entire season. However, they finally got Talen Horton-Tucker back in the lineup on Sunday, and he immediately proved why the team valued him so much during the offseason.
For Monday’s game, they are still without Kendrick Nunn, Austin Reaves and Trevor Ariza. eBron James is considered day-to-day but has also been ruled out Monday. It’s possible Frank Vogel and the Lakers want him to participate in a full practice before playing.
Because the Bulls are without Vucevic, the Lakers should employ a similar game plan to their win against the San Antonio Spurs. DeAndre Jordan was a DNP on Sunday, and the Lakers dominated down low with Anthony Davis. Meanwhile, the Lakers were able to defend on the perimeter thanks to Horton-Tucker, while he, Malik Monk, Wayne Ellington and Carmelo Anthony had success on offense.
It won’t be easy at all, but if the Lakers can secure a win against the Bulls, it would certainly make them feel better about the direction of the team. As they exit an easier stretch of their schedule, it’s time for a litmus test against a quality opponent, and the Bulls absolutely qualify in that category.
Lakers (8-6) vs. Bulls (9-4)
7:30 p.m. PT, Nov. 15, 2021
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: NBATV, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Talen Horton-Tucker
PF: Carmelo Anthony
C: Anthony Davis
Key Reserves: Malik Monk, Wayne Ellington, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, Kent Bazemore
Projected Bulls Starting Lineup:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Alex Caruso
SF: Zach LaVine
PF: DeMar DeRozan
C: Tony Bradley
Key Reserves: Javonte Green, Derrick Jones Jr., Troy Brown Jr., Ayo Dosunmu
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