Lakers are (Bulls)ish in their approach to the season

LOS ANGELES (News4uonline) – The next time the Los Angeles Lakers play a home game at STAPLES Center (soon to be Arena) will be the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend. The team’s extended road trip until then might be a good thing after witnessing the Lakers getting outplayed and outhustled by a younger and more athletic Chicago Bulls squad.

After their 121-103 defeat to the Bulls, the Lakers hit the road for a five-game swing before they come back and hit the hardwood in a November 26 home game against the Sacramento Kings. That loss to the Bulls might have been a precursor to how the Lakers have played and what they’re doing at the present time.

To be fair, the Lakers did play the Bulls short-handed, going into their November 15 game with Chicago without the services of LeBron James. With that said, the Lakers did have James on the court in a recent road defeat to the Boston Celtics, giving Los Angeles a second straight loss since leaving Los Angeles.

Let’s make it three losses in a row if you want to be technical about it. The Lakers ended their losing skid with a 121-115 against the Detroit Pistons after James was ejected from the game for his part in an on-court brawl.

“We feel the wins,” Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony said. “We feel the loses. We’re human. We’re human. You’re going to feel defeat anytime you lose. It’s very hard to reflect back on the game right after the game. I know for me, I don’t like doing that. I like to go home and re-watch the game, re-watch the clips and see what we did right, what we did wrong. Places that we can be better, do better, get better.

Anthony continued, “I kind of try to analyze the game as I watch it when I get home. Tomorrow I’ll have another perspective on what I saw in the game. A lot of times it might be something that’s going on in the game and it might feel terrible, or it might feel great and it’s not that great or it’s not that bad. Commenting on the game right away is difficult for me because I like to go back and watch it.”

November 15, 2021. Zach Lavine of the Chicago Bulls (8) goes for the layup attempt against Malik Monk (11) of the Los Angeles Lakers. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

Let’s be honest about how the Lakers are playing so far this season. Playing against the Bulls was a full-size indicator. There are several observations to be made here about this game as it relates to how the Lakers are playing thus far this season.

The Lakers are struggling at the moment, with or without James. There’s no dancing around this fact.

The first observation is that is without James in the starting lineup, the Lakers will find it extremely difficult to navigate through the Western Conference as well as the rest of the NBA. Let’s put it more bluntly: No James, no juice. When James is out of the picture, teams like the Bulls can utilize the double-team strategy on forward Anthony Davis more effectively.

It worked out in Chicago’s favor against the Lakers as the Bulls limited Davis to just seven points in over 18 minutes of playing time in the first half. Davis finished the game with 20 points before getting tossed out of the game late in the third quarter.

“We haven’t seen that type of double team this year,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said. “Credit Chicago for being very aggressive. They were trying to take him out of the game with post frontals and immediate double teams. With a new group, we didn’t adjust to it very well.

“We missed open threes on the backside,” Vogel added. “We turned the ball over too much, we had too many bad possessions early on trying to get AD involved. A part of a new season with a new group is all these guys are new to playing with Anthony, they’re trying to figure that out. Understanding where we want to go to when we see a defense like that.”

November 15, 2021. Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) goes for the block shot against DeMar DeRozan of the Chicago Bulls. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

The second observation from the Lakers-Bulls matchup is that the team’s star-laced roster with Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook, could not quite keep up with the young bucks from the Bulls, although elder statesman and Compton native DeMar DeRozan had a say about how things turned out.

DeRozan dropped 38 points on the Lakers and the Bulls flexed their Eastern Conference muscles to give the Lakers a thumping loss. By the time DeRozan and the Bulls dropped 37 points in the third quarter on the Lakers, playing in their city edition uniforms, the game was all but over.

DeRozan, who attended Compton High School and the University of Southern California (USC), put on a showcase in front of the sellout crowd. DeRozan scored 14 of his game-high total in the third quarter to help turn the Bulls’ narrow halftime lead into a 94-73 advantage at the end of the period.

“Just being myself,” DeRozan said during his postgame press conference. “Like I said yesterday just going out there and playing, not thinking. Just picking and choosing my spots. Just the hunger, wanting to be successful tonight. Every single night really, just going out there and compete and have fun with my teammates. The goal every single night is trying to come out with a victory. That’s our job every single night and I’m just trying to do my job the best to my ability.”

Former Laker Lonzo Ball, now the starting point guard for the Bulls, said his new teammate is playing with a lot of motivation.

“I think he’s playing with a chip on his shoulder,” Ball said. ” I think a lot of people counted him out, saying he’s on the back end of his career but this is probably one of the best years he’s had in the NBA. We’re just happy to have him on the team.”

If Ball, DeRozan and the Bulls had something to prove, they passed that test with flying colors. Not only did Chicago beat the Lakers, but the Bulls also defeated the Los Angeles Clippers in a double-digit win. Ball, who the Lakers selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, said the Bulls’ victory was a team win.

November 15, 2021. Los Angeles Laker guard Talen Horton-Tucker (5) goes for the reverse layup against the Chicago Bulls. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

“I just wanted to win tonight really, said Ball, who finished the game with 27 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds against the team that drafted him. “We know had two tough games both tonight and obviously the game we had yesterday. We came out here and did what we came out here to do and that was to go 2-0 and now it’s on to Portland.”

The Bulls earned their road win by keeping the Lakers under 30 points for the first three quarters and keeping the bench play of Los Angeles in wraps. No Laker reserve scored more than five points in the game, and only Talen Horton-Tucker (28 points), Anthony Davis (20 points), and Russell Westbrook (25 points) scored in double-figures, a credit to Chicago’s defense.

If the Lakers thought they might still have an opportunity to turn it on and come back from their double-digit deficit, that was tossed to the wind when Davis got himself tossed out of the game by a game official near the end of the third quarter. The final observation comes down to the effectiveness and health of Anthony and Westbrook.

Both Anthony and Westbrook were added to the roster to add offensive firepower. Outside of James and Davis, the Lakers badly need that third and fourth option to produce points. For the first 24 minutes against the Bulls, Westbrook went off for 19 points. In the second half, Westbrook scored just six points.

Anthony finished the game against Chicago with just nine points. Inconsistent play is not what the Lakers want or need out of Anthony or Westbrook this season. To his credit, Westbrook said the offense is still a work in progress when it comes to pushing the ball up the court.

“It’s still not there,” Westbrook said. “The pace is hard when you keep taking the ball out of bounds. You can push a lot of times, but playing against a set defense is not always the ideal situation you want to be in. We got to get there. We got to run the floor, kick the ball ahead, make easy reads.”

Featured Image Caption: Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) goes for the scoop layup against the Chicago Bulls. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline