LOS ANGELES — The Lakers still have this inconsistency.
As I’m sure multiple writers on here and in every other outlet have mentioned, the Lakers have been very up and down in this season. In their current state, they’re still below .500 by a smidge (22-23) and this season could be in April before we all know it. Sure, they somehow managed to step it up after the trading deadline last season but can they live on the edge for the second straight year?
In the meantime, the Lakers have a home game before they go on a 6-game trip (the annual Grammy road trip). Who’s coming over to visit? The Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls got off to a 5-14 start but have been playing better basketball since. They’ve gone 16-10 since and Chicago is now in the 9th seed in the East at 21-24.
The Lakers have already played the Bulls once this season. On Dec. 20th, the Bulls stomped on the Lakers, 124-108. It was a familiar problem for the Lakers; the Bulls made 18 three-pointers.
And it has been a thorn on the side of the Lakers. I kept bringing up how the Lakers seem to leave the three open. Whether that’s by design or they get lost in the scrambling defense is anybody’s guess but the fact of the matter is that it has killed them in many games. Going into this game, the Lakers let the most three-pointers made allowed (14.3 per game), fourth in most three-point attempts allowed (37.7), and 10th best percentage in three against them (.379).
So I’ll probably harp on this every game until they get it fixed: defend the three. Even if the team isn’t a great three-point shooting squad, best to limit their attempts because the sheer number of threes can overwhelm a team. Those can pile up the points pretty quickly. Don’t you love math?
We know what DeMar DeRozan can do; he’s still a scorer to this day at 21.9 points per. Zach LaVine remains out because of his ankle as does Torrey Craig. But the Bulls have been staying afloat because of a much improved Coby White. Averaging 18.8 points, 4.6 boards, and 5.0 boards, Coby is also shooting .403 from three in 7.0 attempts per. He has also played in every available game this year. It’s like something clicked and he’s figured out how to score in multiple ways. Very happy for him.
The Bulls have Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond in the middle. And we can’t forget ol’ friend Alex Caruso, who continues to be a menacing defender in the perimeter. Patrick Williams and Ayo Dosunmu also hold their own there in that department. While the Bulls will try to take the ball away, they’re excellent on protecting the ball; they are third in fewest turnovers per game at 12.3.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis are questionable but honestly, that’s expected these days. Cam Reddish is out, however, with an ankle injury.
Still, the Lakers better do a much better job defending the three. And it’s also key for them to get off to a great start. The Lakers have not done well when their backs have been pushed against the wall this season. The Bulls outscored them by 11 in the first quarter on their first match-up and led by as many as 18 in the first half. The Lakers couldn’t get over the hump after that.
They need this win to get back to .500 before they go on that trek. That road trip may or may not break their season but it’s a very pivotal part of their campaign, nonetheless.
But first, they must do something about the Bulls’ run.