The Lakers are riding a rare two game road winning streak into tonight’s game. They barely edged by the Celtics on Friday then pulled away in the second half to beat the Raptors yesterday. With a roster that resembles their D-League affiliate, the Lakers are playing with great energy and are finding ways to win down the stretch. Tonight the Lakers are facing the Bulls who have struggled since losing Derrick Rose to injury.
The Bulls had hopes of making a run at one of the top spots in the Eastern Conference but that dream disintegrated when Rose injured his other knee. Since then the Bulls have traded away their starting small forward Luol Deng in order to save some money. It seems as if the Bulls championship contention hopes are going to be postponed to a future season. The Lakers are in position to win their third straight game on the road tonight.
Frontcourt: The Bulls frontcourt is anchored by defensive oriented center Joakim Noah. Noah is averaging a double-double this season along with 1.3 blocks. He’s a terror on the glass as evidenced by his team leading 11 boards per game. Pau Gasol will need to box him out or else Noah could ruin the Lakers with his offensive rebounding ability. Veteran Carlos Boozer is the leading scorer on the Bulls with 15 points per game. He has the strength to bully Ryan Kelly in the post and is an above average rebounder. First off the bench for the Bulls is Taj Gibson who is an energetic player who is a double-double threat on any given night. Gibson is a rangy forward who is the team’s leading shot blocker.
Backcourt: Kirk Hinrich has assumed point guard duties in Derrick Rose’s absence. Hinrich is a great on ball defender but struggles to score on offense. He’s only chipping in 8.1 points per game on 34.8% shooting. Starting shooting guard Jimmy Butler has also had issues scoring efficiently this year and is only converting 37.8% of his attempts. Butler scoring has seen an uptick and he’s expected to shoulder a bigger load with the departure of Luol Deng. Butler is the team’s second leading scorer with 12.2 points per game. Backup point guard D.J. Augustin provides a scoring spark off the bench. In fact he may be the most talented scoring guard on the team and can get it done by driving down the lane or knocking down threes. Look for Augustin to play a significant role in the Bulls offense tonight.
Key to Lakers’ Victory:
Defense? The Lakers allow 106 points per 100 possessions which is third worst in the NBA. At this point it’s probably safe to assume that the Lakers won’t win games by it’s defense. Although in the Lakers last two wins they managed to hold teams under 110 points which seems to be the tipping point for the Lakers. Luckily, the Bulls are one of the worst offensive teams, scoring just 97.4 points per 100 possessions. The Bulls effective field goal percentage of 46.1% is dead last in the league. Hopefully the Lakers capitalize on the Bulls’ offensive struggles and not allow them to get into any sort of scoring rhythm.
Balanced Offensive Attack: While the Bulls struggle on offense they are a superb defensive team. The Lakers will need to maintain a balanced scoring and not settle on jacking up threes. They should mix up their offense and make an effort to score in the paint. Hopefully Gasol can prevail against Noah who is a very good defender.
Rookie Phenom: Ryan Kelly has erupted lately and scored 37 points over the last two games. Coach D’Antoni inserted him into the starting line-up because he loves playing stretch fours. There’s no question that Kelly can score, but can he defend? Kelly will be challenged tonight by the Bull’s bigs who could bully him around in the post. If Kelly struggles expect Hill to relieve him.
Los Angeles Lakers (16-25) at Chicago Bulls (19-20)
5:00 PM PST, January 20, 2014
United Center, Chicago, IL
TV: TWC SN
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Bulls Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Kirk Hinrich
SG: Jimmy Butler
SF: Mike Dunleavy
PF: Carlos Boozer
C: Joakim Noah
Key Reserves: PF: Taj Gibson PG: D.J. Augustin GF: Tony Snell
Lakers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Ryan Kelly
C: Pau Gasol
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