Someone told the Los Angeles Lakers that two wins against weak teams isn’t the end of their problems. Now they’re back on the losing track, while arriving to another tough road game against the Chicago Bulls, who might be playing without their best player, Luol Deng.
Deng hurt his hamstring in the 107-105 overtime win against the Toronto Raptors. He played a part in the following win against the Boston Celtics, but wasn’t a part of the 3 point loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday, as the Bulls were beaten in a defensive battle, kept at only 36.5% from the field while being outscored in transition 21-6.
Defense has been keeping the Bulls more than just alive in the Eastern conference playoff race. They’re 23-16, winning seven of their last 10 games. They keep teams at 42.9% from the field (fourth best in the NBA) and at 91.7 points per game. The offense has been a bit more unpredictable this season, scoring only 93.9 points per game and shooting only 43.9% from the field. When they do reach 100 points, they always win.
The Lakers have lost their last two games against the Bulls and in general. They’re back to six games below .500, three games outside the 8th and final ticket to the postseason. Their interior defense and lack of depth have been key issues among many that seem to rotate each time the Lakers get something right. Relying too heavily on Kobe Bryant might be another cause for alarm, as their leading scorer, averaging 29.6 points per game this season, has made only 31.6% of his field goal attempts in the last couple of losses, admitting that he’s feeling more than just a little tired.
Prediction – The Chicago Bulls don’t always find it easy getting points. If they push the ball into the paint early through Boozer and Noah, it won’t matter if Deng is playing or not. The Lakers need to put in an effort on defense because it’s unlikely they’ll manage too many points against a stingy Bulls defense. On the other hand, the Bulls are much better when they’re away from home, so far 11-11 at the United Center.