Lakers play Bulls in first of two-game series

Lakers will try to go over .500 for the first time this season.

The Lakers have finally evened out their record after 74 games. With 8 games left in the regular season, they want to make sure they close the season out strong as it is the difference between being a dangerous playoff team… or calling it a season after April 9th.

Their opponent for the next two games very much has the same goal as the Lakers. The Chicago Bulls will take on them in Los Angeles on a Sunday matinee before taking on them back in the Windy City on Wednesday night.

The 35-38 Bulls are barely hanging on to a play-in spot at the 10th seed. But they’ve also been a pretty good team since the all-star break. Going into that, they had lost 6 in a row. After All-Star Weekend, they have gone 9-5, which included wins over Denver, Miami, and Philadelphia.

When you think of the Bulls, you likely think of all-world scorers Zach LaVine (25.0 points per) and DeMar DeRozan (25.1 points per!). You also probably think of Nikola Vucevic (17.7 points and 11.3 boards a game). They’re not the greatest defensively, right? Well, the Bulls are actually a really good defensive team. They’re fifth in defensive rating this year, allowing 111.6 points per 100 possessions.

It’s the unsung heroes like Alex Caruso (the one the Lakers let get away!), Ayo Dosunmu, and Patrick Williams that are getting it done on the defensive end. Not only those but they also took in an old friend of the Lakers, Patrick Beverley, to add to their defensive corps. PatBev has been with the team since said all-star break and it’s probably not a coincidence that their team has gotten even better defensively since then (second in defensive rating since the all-star break!). DeRozan has made it known that they’ve become better on communication defensively since Beverley got there. And Beverley is motivated; he wants to play a part on helping knock the Lakers out of the playoff running.

Let’s see if the Bulls, as good as they are defensively, can stop Anthony Davis. They might send multiple defenders at him like most teams have been doing as of late because there is no way they can stop him one-on-one. If D’Angelo Russell can’t go, Dennis Schröder and Austin Reaves will have to set the table once again. They’ll have to find ways to make sure their good three-point shooters get a lot of good looks as the Bulls predicate their perimeter defense to make sure the not-so-great shooters from the opposing team chuck shots. No Russell means Lonnie Walker IV might get a look again, who was incredible in their win against Oklahoma City on Friday.

We know Zach LaVine can score. But it’ll be harder for the Bulls to get a W if DeMar DeRozan (who scored 38 points in each of the two games played against the Lakers last season; by the way, the Bulls swept the season series) can’t play. He sat out Friday’s game against Portland due to a quad issue. They do still have Vucevic for offensive firepower, though. And Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu supplemented some scoring in their huge win against Portland. However, if DeRozan does get on the court, we’ll see a huge diet of midrange jumpers. And DeMar is a master in that area.

Remember that the Lakers will play the Bulls the next two games. It’s always a bit tough to play the same team twice in a row like it’s a playoff series. And there’s no doubt we’re going to get a playoff atmosphere with so much on the line for both teams.

It’s time for the Lakers to prove that they’re better than a .500 team.

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