The Los Angeles Lakers are taking on the Chicago Bulls on Sunday with extraordinary circumstances surrounding the clash.
The Bulls were the first team to have games postponed due to the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak after 10 of their players entered the league’s health and safety protocols. The Sunday game will be Chicago’s first since the 118-92 loss to the Miami Heat on Dec. 11.
DeMar DeRozan, Coby White and Javonte Green have tested out of the protocols and should make an appearance against the Lakers. But the Bulls will be still without Zach LaVine, Derrick Jones Jr. and Ayo Dosunmu, among others, during the clash.
Meanwhile, L.A. will have to cope without at least eight players. Anthony Davis joined the injury list on Friday, spraining the MCL in his left knee in the 92-110 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The health and safety protocols have further ruled out Avery Bradley, Kent Bazemore, Talen Horton-Tucker, Malik Monk, Dwight Howard and Austin Reaves.
The good news for the Lakers as that Trevor Ariza is active and is expected to make his season debut, bringing L.A. some much-needed reinforcements.
Also, David Fizdale will take charge of the team after head coach Frank Vogel entered the protocols on Sunday morning.
The Lakers will face the Bulls with a severely undersized group. Besides the 6-foot-11 DeAndre Jordan and the 7-foot-1 two-way center Ariza, Jay Huff and LeBron James will be L.A.’s tallest player at 6 feet and 9 inches.
The lack of size contributed to a total domination by the Timberwolves on the glass, who collected 61 rebounds on Friday — a top-30 number in a single game in NBA history. Hence, Huff is likely to spend more time with his Lakers teammates on the floor than he is used to. The Virginia alum has so far played in two games for the Purple and Gold this season, averaging 6.5 minutes.
Since the Lakers have to approach the game with an “all-hands-on-deck” mindset, Chaundee Brown Jr. should have a chance to bounce back from a tough NBA debut he made against the Timberwolves — when he registered a rebound and an assist in 15 minutes on the floor, ending the night 0-for-6.
And, Isaiah Thomas will certainly play a major role for L.A. again after a 19-point performance in his NBA return on Friday. The 32-year-old veteran’s knack for scoring should take some of the offensive burden off LeBron James and Russell Westbrook’s shoulders as the two All-Stars are set for a busy day in the office.
James and Westbrook will need to shuffle an abundance of responsibilities.
In the absence of the team’s best shot-stoppers, they will have to put in a tremendous amount of effort on the defensive end to stop DeRozan from going off for another season high in scoring. They will also be almost solely responsible for attacking the basket considering the Lakers will have a seriously undermanned frontcourt available for the game.
All the while, the All-Star duo will be tasked with creating good looks for their sharpshooters: Wayne Ellington and Carmelo Anthony.
A chaotic night lays ahead of the Lakers — just as chaotic as the past few days have been.
Lakers (16-14) vs. Bulls (17-10)
5:00 p.m. PT, Dec. 19, 2021
United Center, Chicago, Illinois
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Wayne Ellington
SF: LeBron James
PF: Carmelo Anthony
C: DeAndre Jordan
Key Reserves: Isaiah Thomas, Jay Huff, Rajon Rondo, Chaundee Brown Jr., Trevor Ariza
Projected Bulls Starting Lineup:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Alex Caruso
SF: Javonte Green
PF: DeMar DeRozan
C: Nikola Vucevic
Key Reserves: Coby White, Tony Bradley, Alfonzo McKinnie, Tyler Cook
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