The Los Angeles Lakers are going through one of the toughest stretches of the season. Los Angeles just lost a tough game to the San Antonio Spurs at home and will face another challenge at the Staples Center against the visiting Chicago Bulls.
With D’Angelo Russell out with a knee injury, the Lakers got contributions from Julius Randle, 13 points, nine rebounds and seven assists; Jordan Clarkson, 20 points, three rebounds and three assists; Lou Willams with 24 points and Nick Young with 22 points. The Lakers stayed in the game against the Spurs, who shot 56.4 percent from the field.
As for the Bulls, this isn’t same Chicago team we are used too. The Bulls raised some eyebrows when they signed Rajon Rondo and Dwayne Wade this summer. Both Rondo and Wade have not been known for their outside shot, and in a league where the three-point shot becomes increasingly more important, Chicago decided to go the other way.
The Bulls have won by playing great defense, ranked 7th in the NBA in opponent points per game, and by dominating the glass as they’re ranked 2nd in the league in rebounds per game. The Bulls are coached by Fred Hoiberg, who is seen as an offensive coach who was supposed to bring spacing and pace to the Bulls, but he has been forced to adapt to his personal.
The Lakers were forced to start Jose Calderon in place of D’Angelo Russell in their game against the San Antonio Spurs. Calderon isn’t exactly an offensive juggernaut, and on the other side of the court, he has looked old. The Lakers hope to have D’Angelo Russell back who can provide playmaking to this offense, and his defense is better than Calderon.
Lou Williams has provided the Lakers with a consistent playmaker off the bench. Williams has been able to get big men like Larry Nance Jr. and Tarik Black involved in the offense by utilizing them in the pick and roll. Also, Williams can keep his hands active on defense, leading to steals and easy buckets. Lastly, Lou can create offense when the Lakers need it most.
Nick Young is another player that has been valuable to the Lakers. Young can fire away from three-point land and get red hot. Also, Young rarely misses from the three point line and has played good defense this year. Young will need to stay in front of Dwayne Wade tonight and make him work hard on both ends of the floor.
With Dwyane Wade resting tonight and Rondo listed as questions, the Bulls will have to turn to their young guys to produce for them. Denzel Valentine was drafted 14th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft. Valentine has been struggling so far this season averaging 1.4 points 1.0 rebound and 0.4 assists. Valentine was an important member of the Michigan State Spartans team that was consistently ranked in the top 10 of the country. If the Bulls turn to Valentine they will hope he can make plays for others and make open shots.
The next player is Jerian Grant, nephew of Horace Grant. Grant played last year for the New York Knicks and went to college at Norte Dame. Grant is a big point guard, who can score and get others involved. Grant isn’t the flashiest player on the court, but he gets the job done. He is averaging 5.4 points and 1.5 assists so far this season.
Isaiah Canaan can fill some time at the guard spots. Last year, he played for the Philadelphia 76ers and was able to show he is a rotation player in this league. Canaan is able to shoot well from beyond the arc. Canaan versus Lou Williams would be a shootout that every fan at Staples Center would enjoy.
Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr., Tarik Black, and Timofey Mozgov have all done their jobs this seasons. Randle has been asked to play way better on the defensive end, rebound the ball well and be a playmaker on the offensive end. Randle has had a few near triple-doubles this season and his defense has been excellent. Randle has been able to use his strengths to take advantage of his opponents. Tonight Randle goes against a big frontcourt with Robin Lopez and Taj Gibson. Look for Randle to use his quickness to get around these big men and possibly hit a couple of mid-range jumpers to open up more dribble drive opportunities.
Timofey Mozgov is perfectly matched up with Robin Lopez. Both of these big men are there to take up lots of space, roll hard to the basket and protect the rim. Lopez has edged out Mozgov when it comes to traditional stats, but Mozgov has provided the Lakers with many intangibles such as toughness and professionalism.
Larry Nance and Tarik Black both have provided the Lakers with high energy. Nance has been able to get his hands in the passing lanes, and Black has been able to grab offensive rebounds. Both players have been recipients of alley-oops off the pick and roll, and they have shown the ability to make the extra pass. Nance and Black have proven to be the roles player the Lakers need to win games.
Jimmy Butler is a star player in the NBA. Bulter plays well on both sides of the floor. This year the Bulls traded away Derrick Rose and handed over the keys to Bulter. Even after signing Wade people are still looking to Bulter to take the Bulls to the next level. Bulter can light a team up offensively on any given night and shut down the opponent’s best player. Bulter averaged 26 points, 10 assists, and five rebounds against the Lakers last year.
Taj Gibson, Robin Lopez, and Nikola Mirotic highlight the Bulls frontcourt. Gibson is a grind it out power forward that learned the tricks of the trade from Tom Thibodeau. Gibson is productive in the pick and roll and will provide toughness throughout the game. Lopez provides the same qualities to a team that Mozgov gives to the Lakers. Mirotic is a “stretch-4” because of his ability to hit the three pointers. The Bulls are deep in the frontcourt, and it is up to Hoiberg to put together the right lineups to take down the Lakers.
Keys to Victory:
Push the Pace
The Lakers have the second highest points per game so far this season. Los Angeles has shown the ability to score with their offense sets, but have a much bigger advantage earlier in the shot clock. This team can get to the rim or make an open three-point shot on the fast break. With 17 fast break points per game, the Lakers 5th-best in the NBA in that category. Also, the Bulls played last night against the Los Angeles Clippers. Playing on back-to-back nights is hard and even harder against a team that wants to push the pace.
Limit Second-Chance Points
The Lakers often choose to go with smaller lineups, and this has gone well for them so far this season, but it opens up a weakness, rebounding. Chicago is the second best rebounding team in the league averaging 48.5 per game and they also are second in the league in second-chance points, with 16.2 points per game. Los Angeles will need to box out and stay active on the boards if they want to win this game.
Let it Rain from Three
The Bulls want to play with slower pace and keep the score low; the Lakers want the pace to be pushed and the score to be high, who will get their way? Los Angeles can shove their gameplan on the Bulls by letting the ball fly from three-point land. Shooting three-point shots can help the Lakers in a clear way and a slightly more complex way. In a clear way, the three-point shot is worth more than the two-point show and in the more complex way three-point shots mean longer rebounds which put the Bulls big men in a less advantageous position.
Los Angeles Lakers (7-6) Vs. Chicago Bulls (8-5)
6:30 P.M. PST, November 20th, 2016
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Bulls Starting Lineup:
PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Denzel Valentine
SF: Jimmy Butler
PF: Taj Gibson
C: Robin Lopez
Key Reserves: Nikola Mirotic, Isaiah Canaan, Bobby Portis
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Nick Young
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Julius Randle
C: Timofey Mozgov
Key Reserves: Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Lou Williams, Tarik Black