The Los Angeles Lakers are back in action tonight against the Chicago Bulls at Staples Center, after they lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the final seconds on Tuesday night. The Lakers showed signs of improvement during their game against Dallas and they almost pulled an upset in what was one of their most impressive games as a team this season.
Kobe Bryant sat out the last game against the Mavericks to rest his sore right shoulder, but he will play tonight when his favorite teammate of all time visits Staples Center. Gasol is playing in just his second game against the Lakers since he left for Chicago in free agency, so Lakers fans should embrace him with a nice ovation. This will be the last time Kobe and Pau share the floor at Staples Center, where they won back-to-back titles and created an unbreakable bond.
Frontcourt: Pau Gasol is the anchor down low for the Bulls and when they run their offense out of the post, the ball is predominantly in his hands. Lakers fans are familiar with the variety of skills that Pau possesses. Gasol has a soft touch around the rim, can shoot over either shoulder, and can knock down the midrange jumper effortlessly. When he is not getting buckets down low, Pau is arguably the best passing big man in the league.
Taj Gibson is the starting power forward and he can wreak havoc on the offensive glass with his constant activity down low. The Bulls are injury riddled and are missing some of their key frontcourt players. Nikola Mirotic is day-to-day after having an appendectomy, and Joakim Noah is likely out for the remainder of the season after having surgery to repair his dislocated shoulder.
Backcourt: Derrick Rose has been the undisputed best player on the Bulls now for several years, but lately there seems to be a shift as Jimmy Butler continues to improve. Butler is having the best season of his young career, averaging 22 points and five rebounds per game. Two weeks ago, Butler exploded for a new career-high in scoring against the Philadelphia 76ers with 53 points. Butler has become a dangerous scorer, but he has made a name for himself with his relentless effort on the defensive end.
Former Most Valuable Player, Derrick Rose, is still looking to prove that he can return to form after several season-ending injuries. Naturally, Rose seems to have lost a step and is not playing with as much confidence after his severe injuries, but he remains an elite point guard in the NBA. Rose is averaging 15 points and five assists per game and is probable tonight against the Lakers, as he is dealing with a strained hamstring.
Keys to Victory:
Hold Bulls Under 100: The Lakers had a decent defensive game against the Mavericks on Tuesday and held them to just 92 points. A similar defensive effort will be needed if they want to give themselves a chance to beat the Bulls, who are currently the fourth best team in the Eastern Conference. The Lakers will have to focus their defense on Butler and Gasol and just hope that Rose does not have a monster game.
Ball Movement: Coach Byron Scott said that he pulled D’Angelo Russell out of the close game against the Mavericks because he thought Russell was playing “hero ball” and was forcing the action. Scott claimed that the ball stuck in Russell’s hands and the offense became stagnant with little ball movement. When Russell is on the floor, he should focus on getting the offense moving early in the shot clock and get the ball moving to produce better shots for the Lakers.
Julius Randle Redemption Game: The roster for the Rising Stars Challenge was announced on Wednesday and D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson were selected to participate. Julius Randle was snubbed from the roster, despite nearly averaging a double-double in his second season in the NBA after only playing 14 minutes of his rookie year. Randle should come out of the gates with a chip on his shoulder and prove that he has the talent to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge. If Randle has a great game against Pau Gasol and the Bulls, the Lakers will win and the NBA will regret their decision to snub Randle from the roster.
Los Angeles Lakers (9-38) Vs. Chicago Bulls (25-19)
7:30 PM PST, January 28, 2016
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Anthony Brown
PF: Julius Randle
C: Roy Hibbert
Key Reserves: PF: Brandon Bass PF: Larry Nance Jr. SG: Nick Young
Bulls Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Derrick Rose
SG: Jimmy Butler
SF: Doug McDermott
PF: Taj Gibson
C: Pau Gasol
Key Reserves: PG: Aaron Brooks SG: Kirk Hinrich SF: Tony Snell