Nov 30, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson (22) reacts after making dunking the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
The latest Lakers news is plenty of praise for a young team that is now 10-10 on the season.
Some might think that a team like the Lakers is still dwelling on their back-to-back losses against the Warriors.
If you’re one of those folks, you’re wrong.
In their most recent win, the Lakers got it done on the road against a top-three team in the Eastern Conference. Chicago went under a lot of major changes in the off-season, but they’ve emerged as at least a playoff contender.
Los Angeles came into the game not only having the Warriors games to learn from, but also an embarrassing night in New Orleans. The young core failed to make Anthony Davis’ efforts not as game-changing, and that may have cost them the win.
Here’s a look at three things that the Lakers did right in order to beat the Bulls in Chicago.
Nov 30, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) dribbles the ball against Los Angeles Lakers center Tarik Black (28) during the first half at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
The biggest determining factor for this young Lakers team to succeed is how they handle and limit their turnovers. Against the Bulls, Los Angeles gave up the ball 24 times compared to just 14 times by their opponent.
Usually, a statistic like that is something you would find in a blowout.
Los Angeles knew that they were going to have a tough road game in Chicago, but because both teams had poor shooting performances, it eased the stress a little bit.
Nov 30, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Luol Deng (9) dribbles the ball against Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) during the second half at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
While winning is great, the Lakers finally earned a hard win on the road. That being said, the growth of the young core is only going to expand.
Grinding it out, the Lakers won an ugly shooting night for both teams from beyond and within the arc.
Los Angeles shot just 25% from three-point land, beating out Chicago’s 19% success rate. Also, the team shot 40% from the field and edged the Bulls by a factor of five.
The Lakers were outscored by double digits, trailing 28-17 after the first quarter. Instead of getting down on themselves, they dug themselves out of it.
Luke Walton: “Our guys have proven that when their backs are against the wall they can step up for a challenge."
jMore specifically, they responded with 30 points in the second frame, tying the game at 47 heading into the break.
They also managed to do this in the fourth quarter by nearly mirroring the Bulls’ effort in the opening quarter.
An area for improvement, though, is working on their approach and success rate as a team from the free throw line. They shot just 68% from the stripe, while Chicago managed to make three out of four attempts.
Nov 30, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Rajon Rondo (9) dribbles the ball against Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Ingram (14) during the first half at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Patterns mean a lot in the game of basketball, and for the Lakers, their bench has become a go-to. Their non-starters have pushed them to victory more than some might expect, even early on in the season.
Against Chicago, if you took away the label of “bench” and just looked at the numbers, you might think you were looking at a starting lineup.
Both Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams provided 18 points apiece, leading their team in scoring via joint effort.
Outside of them, Larry Nance, Jr. scored 12 points and added some much-needed padding on the scoreboard. Nance, Jr. also made his presence known on the boards, snagging 11 of them to be second to Julius Randle in that category.
The Lakers bench outscored the Bulls 56-16.
Knowing that the Bulls were third overall in the Eastern Conference coming into the game, that should speak for itself.
Moving forward, the team is going to need all the bench effort and contribution it can get as it prepares for Toronto on Friday night.
Nov 29, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton reacts to an officials call during the second half of a game against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans defeated the Lakers 105-88. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Luke Walton has seriously changed the culture in Los Angeles, and the effects are more dramatic than anyone could’ve really predicted.
As of right now, the team finds itself finding a new identity and in the process fighting for playoff recognition as one of the lower seeds.
Even if this season were to end in an early playoff exit, the fact that they found the postseason is miracle enough.
Once D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young fully recover, this team will be even more dangerous.
Processing the fact that they beat a great team in the Bulls without two key players impacting the game is a demonstration of how far this team really has come.
Their next game will come across the border in Toronto, with the Raptors proving as the next-best test for Los Angeles.