NBA Preview: Lakers vs. Bulls

The Los Angeles Lakers (18-29) will take on the Chicago Bulls (18-30) at the United Center in Chicago at 5 PM PST / 8 PM EST. This is the first game of the Lakers 5 game road trip while this is the Bulls’ first game back after a 2 game road trip. The two teams squared off back in November at Staples Center and the Lakers came out with a W, 103-94. Kyle Kuzma led to the way in that previous victory with 22 points, and Lonzo Ball pitched in an impressive 13 rebounds.It’s not looking like the versatile Lakers point guard will be there to pound the glass for the Lakeshow. The team has kept Lonzo out of the last 5 games because of soreness in his left knee. He isn’t doing any contact drills in practice yet, and coach Luke Walton has publicly remarked that they won’t be rushing him back per USA Today. Their record without him since the knee injury is 3-2, but they’ve won their last 3 in a row. The team lost their first two games without him but they seem to have figured something out. They’ve gotten back on track thanks to the magnificent play of Jordan Clarkson and Kyle Kuzma’s Mamba-esque performance against the Celtics. Julius Randle has been putting in work too, and even Alex Caruso is making some plays when he’s given time. They have won 7 of their last 9 games, with 3 of those wins over playoff teams like the Celtics, Spurs, and Pacers.The Bulls are coming into this game on a 2 game losing streak including a heart-wrenching double-overtime loss against the Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. Demarcus Cousins had the game of his life that night and put up a historic 44 points to go along with 24 boards, 10 assists, and 4 steals, in 51 minutes. Anthony Davis killed them too with 34, 9 and 5. The game went into overtime because the Bulls gave up an 18 point lead in the 4th quarter. The Bulls will be happy to play at home again, so if they let a lead slip they won’t have an opposing crowd cheering for their demise. The Bulls are much better at home with a record of 11-12, as opposed to 7-18 on the road.The Lakers will prosper if Julius Randle can muscle around the Bulls bigs like he did to Al Horford against the Celtics on Tuesday night. The Bulls defense has shown they can give up a ton of points to aggressive, opposing bigs. He has to continue to get teammates involved to start things off, because when he only looks for his own shot first he tends to lose control and turn it over.The Lakers will be best suited if they get a sizable lead and hold it against the Bulls. They put their league-worst free throw shooting prowess on display against the Celtics on Tuesday. They almost blew the game because they couldn’t hit free throws against the crunch time intentional fouls from the Celtics. They went an unacceptable 7-17 from the line in the 4th quarter, including 4 misses in the last minute. The Lakers away record is 6-15, much different than their 12-14 record at home. This seems like a game the Lakers should win given their winning streak and victories over teams with better records, but they’re still a young team and I think they’ll end up blowing this road game down the stretch. I think the Bulls will come away with a W, 110-98