After a bounce-back performance against the Denver Nuggets, the Los Angeles Lakers only have a back-to-back remaining before a rare four-day Thanksgiving weekend. The front end of the two games is a home matchup with the Chicago Bulls.
The Lakers enter 7-10 overall and 5-5 at home, while the Bulls are a bleak 3-11 on the young season. In one of their more impressive games this season, the Lakers executed offensively and limited an explosive Nuggets offense to less than 27 points in three of the four quarters, to earn a win.
Los Angeles now has a chance at building a winning streak against another franchise that has undergone massive changes of late.
The clash between the Bulls and Lakers has a few interesting matchups to watch out for, including a reunion at the center position. Tuesday will mark the first time brothers Robin and Brook Lopez will play each other with Brook in a Lakers uniform.
Robin is in the third of a four-year, $54 million contract. His defensive presence is a consistent feature of his game, and he’s capable of making plays around the rim.
No. 7 overall pick Lauri Markkanen will be the featured scorer for the Bulls’ frontcourt, spacing the floor and already showing immediate progress. He poured in 26 points on 10-for-19 shooting against the Phoenix Suns, along with 13 rebounds and two assists.
He is not afraid to pull from beyond the arc, while also being young and athletic enough to blow by defenders. Lakers head coach Luke Walton praised Markkanen for his impressive play, and said his team will have their hands full with the rookie.
Denzel Valentine is a physical small forward who will have the task of trying to contain Brandon Ingram. The matchup will be an interesting one, with strength and power opposing grace and agility.
Ingram will also have a challenge in figuring out how to score against Valentine, needing to set up his moves in order to keep him off balance. The 20-year-old has made a concerted effort to attack the paint of late, setting up scoring opportunities and dump offs for his teammates.
Bobby Portis, who served his suspension for a team altercation, is a name to watch off the bench for the Bulls. He is Chicago’s version of Julius Randle, meaning the Lakers have to keep an eye on his length and limit his scoring. Backup center Cristiano Felicio also is a machine on the glass, providing a presence off the bench should Robin Lopez get in foul trouble.
The Lakers frontcourt relies on the success of Brook, as the consistent scoring option that can operate from the post. While he finds a stable rhythm with his jump shot, Lopez has remained productive from the paint, also helping the Lakers facilitate from the inside out.
Kyle Kuzma will be paired against a fellow rookie in Markkanen, making for an interesting matchup between the 2017 NBA Draft picks. Kuzma has flourished since being inserted into the starting lineup, his latest effort by providing 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting Sunday night.
The Lakers are at their best when Ingram and Lonzo Ball are at a balance between scoring and playmaking, as it sets the tone for the rest of the offense. Randle continues to exceed expectations in his role off the bench, making a strong case for increased minutes in the eyes of his teammates.
The Bulls may have parted with Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler this offseason, but they were able to bring two impressive defensive starters in the backcourt. Justin Holiday, averaging 1.7 steals per game, is an athletic guard that can flourish in an up-tempo pace.
He also sets the tone scoring wise, averaging 15.2 points per game this season. Jerian Grant is the other guard that can cause a nuisance, aggressive and strong for a player who’s 6’4″ and 198 lbs.
Kris Dunn, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2016 Draft, is getting an opportunity to thrive with a new team. His 17 points, six rebounds, and six assists were contributions that kept the Bulls in their last game, but they ultimately fell due to a poor fourth quarter.
The Lakers are hoping for consecutive strong performances from Ball. He’s coming off of his second career triple-double, and will have a chance to thrive against the 23rd ranked defensive team in the NBA.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope should also have a chance to contribute heavily on offense, seeing as how he won’t be opposing an All-Star caliber guard.
Jordan Clarkson remains a threat to explode off the bench, with Walton hoping he can find a better balance between dribbling and creating for his teammates.
Clarkson had his best game of the season against the Nuggets, with 24 points on 11-for-18 shooting, seven rebounds and five rebounds, good for a +27 rating.
Three Keys To Victory
Limit Baskets At The Paint:
Aside from Markkanen, the Bulls don’t have many consistent 3-point threats on their roster. The Lakers have to avoid biting on pump fakes and be able to collapse on moves to the paint. If able to capitalize, the Lakers should be able to finish off possessions and get out and running.
Continue Playmaking Through the Offense:
While Walton is relatively lenient when it comes to playing at an up-tempo pace, the Lakers have to continue using their half-court sets to create opportunities for each other. The Lakers had a season-high 36 assists in their last game, playing selflessly and succeeding.
Continue Impressive Defense:
Through 17 games this season, the Lakers are ranked the fourth-best defense, with a 100.6 defensive rating. Walton has been pleased with his team’s improved defensive approach, becoming the base that leads to offensive opportunities.
Los Angeles Lakers (7-10) Vs. Chicago Bulls (3-11)
7:30 P.M. PST, November 21, 2017
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet, NBA TV
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Kyle Kuzma
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Corey Brewer
Projected Bulls Starting Lineup:
PG: Jerian Grant
SG: Justin Holiday
SF: Denzel Valentine
PF: Lauri Markkanen
C: Robin Lopez
Key Reserves: Kris Dunn, Bobby Portis, Cristiano Felicio
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