November 22, 2017, 1:33 pm
The Lakers woke up after a nightmare of a first half to rally back from a 19-point third quarter deficit and defeat the Bulls 103-94 on Tuesday night.
Los Angeles turned the ball over 13 times in the first half (every single Laker who played had at least one) and allowed an offensively challenged Chicago team to score 56 points leading to a 14-point hole at halftime. A lack of effort and turnovers certainly contributed to the Bulls shooting 7-of-14 from 3-point range, 23-of-49 from the field and out assisting the Lakers 16-to-12. The Lakers allowed the Bulls too much spacing, didn’t close out on 3-point shooters and committed too many miscues leading to easy hoops.
Leading Chicago was a largely unknown player Antonio Blakeney who scored all of his 15 points in the first half. He was 6-of-11 from the floor and had a plus-13 rating while on the court. He punctuated his stellar play with a huge dunk over Julius Randle, even earning a taunting technical foul after the play and extending their lead to 41-36.
One of the few highlights of the first half for Los Angeles was Kyle Kuzma who provided 18 points, one rebound and one assist. He shot 6-of-9 from the floor, 3-of-5 from 3-point range and 3-of-4 from the line. He was the only Laker to attempt a free throw in the half – a testament to his level of aggressiveness and the lack thereof by the rest of his teammates.
It appeared that the second half was going to be more of the same as the Lakers gave up offensive rebounds on both of the Bulls possessions and then fouled a 3-point shooter to start the second half. At that point the game reached its low point with the Bulls grabbing a 19-point lead.
Kuzma hit a 3-pointer to jolt the Lakers out of their sleep but it was the intensity of their bench that would lead to the comeback. Randle, who had an atrocious first half with a minus-14 rating, was pivotal in sparking the Laker run. He started it off with an offensive rebound put back and followed it with an and-one opportunity over Robin Lopez to narrow the gap to 71-62. Randle had a huge blocked shot on a Bobby Portis dunk attempt leading to another 3-point play.
Josh Hart had a put back dunk to narrow the lead to four points, although his statistical contribution wasn’t tremendous, his energy on defense was a key factor in the Lakers third quarter comeback. His basket off a Randle pass would later tie the game at 80 early in the fourth quarter. Luke Walton mentioned Hart repeatedly in his post-game conference as one of the elements that sparked the Laker comeback.
The Bulls would immediately counter with a 7-0 run and take an 87-80 lead. At this point coach Walton made key substitutions inserting Lonzo Ball and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope back into the game.
Ball would immediately drain a 3-pointer to assert his presence but Caldwell-Pope, in particular, was instrumental in leading the Lakers on a 23-7 run to end the game. Caldwell-Pope would score off of an offensive rebound to give Los Angeles their first lead of the half at 91-89 and then hit two consecutive 3-pointers for the Lakers to extend their lead to 97-92. Caldwell-Pope finished the game with 21 points, nine rebounds, four assists, three steals and a game-high plus-23 rating. He shot 6-of-11 from the floor and 4-of-7 from 3-point range – easily his best game as a Laker.
Brandon Ingram was also pivotal down the stretch repeatedly attacking the basket, drawing fouls and converting shots. He contributed 17 points, five rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal.
Ball also ended with a productive stat line – particularly on the glass. His final line was eight points, 13 rebounds, four assists, a steal and a plus-14 rating. He shot 3-of-13 from the floor and 2-of-8 from 3-point range but improved after a 1-of-8 and 0-of-4 first half.
Aside from Caldwell-Pope, the hero for the Lakers was Randle who provided 10 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a plus-8 rating. He had a plus-22 rating in the second half and his energy, in particular his highlight reel block of Portis, was a turning point in the game.
Lauri Markkanen had a night to forget shooting 4-of-17 from the floor for 13 points, 14 rebounds and one block.
Denzel Valentine was the best overall player for Chicago with 17 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals on 6-of-12 from the field and 5-of-7 from 3-point range.
After dealing with a lot of Bull in the first half, Laker fans were rewarded with an exhilarating second half, confetti from the rafters and tacos.
Stats and Observations
- Robin Lopez won the battle of the twins posting 14 points, three rebounds, two assists and one block on 7-of-11 shooting compared to four points, nine rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block for Brook Lopez on 2-of-10 shooting.
- After turning the ball over 13 times in the first half, the Lakers turned the ball over only one time in the second half.
- Los Angeles allowed 56 first half points but tightened the screws at the half allowing only 38 second half points.
- The Lakers shot 13-of-40 from 3-point range for 32.5 percent. Shooting over 30 percent from downtown has been a struggle for the Lakers.
- Los Angeles out assisted the Bulls 11-6 in the second half.
- The Lakers shot only 36-of-90 from the floor for 40 percent but were able to defeat the Bulls due to stingy second half defense.
The Lakers (8-10) head to Sacramento (4-13) for the second half of a back-to-back looking to extend their win streak to three games.
De’Aaron Fox has been looking forward to playing Lonzo Ball on the NBA stage ever since Ball was selected No. 2 overall and Fox selected No. 5. Fox and his Kentucky team ousted the Ball led Bruins from the NCAA tournament behind a massive 39-point performance.
Since then Ball has been unavailable during every possible matchup between the two leading to some speculation that he was avoiding Fox. There will be no avoiding the rematch this time and the two will finally square off for the first time on this platform.