Chicago Bulls: Takeaways From Win Over L.A. Lakers

The Chicago Bulls improved to 3-1 on their current road trip with a 118-110 over the Los Angeles Lakers. Here are some of the notable takeaways from this victory.

Nov 20, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) dribbles the ball past past Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Ingram (14) in the first quarter of the game at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bulls were playing at the Staples Center for the second time in as many nights. In the game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night, they led by as many as 19 points before faltering down the stretch, resulting in a disappointing 102-95 loss.

So without their second leading scorer in Dwyane Wade out of the lineup (rest), would the Bulls found a way to bounce back against a Los Angeles Lakers team that was off to a surprising start?

In a word: Absolutely.

Fast forwarding to the fourth quarter, the Bulls built a 15-point lead only to see that lead dwindle to five points with just a little more than a minute left in regulation.

This time around, however, the Bulls made the necessary plays down the stretch and managed to escape with an 118-110 win, improving to 3-1 on their current road trip.

Here are the main takeaways from their victory.

Oct 31, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic (44) steals the ball during the second quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Nikola Mirotic Plays Well In Starting Role

It has been well documented how third-year forward Nikola Mirotic has struggled with consistency during his tenure with the Bulls. With Wade out of the lineup, Jimmy Butler was shifted to the 2-guard spot and Mirotic started at small forward.

What were the results?

Well, Mirotic played reasonably well to say the least. Not only did he finish with 15 points on 4-for-9 shooting — including a 3-for-8 effort from three-point range — Mirotic also finished with a game-high 15 rebounds and a plus-15 rating.

Not too shabby considering that he totaled just 17 points in the three previous games combined. Whether Mirotic can manufacture these kinds of performances on a nightly basis remains to be seen.

But with one of the team’s leading scorers out of the lineup, the Bulls needed someone other than the usual catalysts to step up in a big way and Mirotic was able to answer the call.

November 19, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg watches game action against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Mental Toughness, Aggressiveness Contribute To Win

There were many instances last season in which the Bulls lost games simply because their opponents were the tougher team. On the heels of an emotional letdown against the Clippers the night before, that could been have been the case once again.

Instead of allowing that to carry over into this game, though, the Bulls were determined that they were not going to let another winnable game slip through their fingers.

They outrebounded the Lakers by a 56-37 margin. They attempted 28 free throws compared to 21 for the home team. Furthermore, the Bulls recorded a whopping 60 points in the paint to go along with 19 second-chance points.

“Different group of guys,” Rajon Rondo said via the Chicago Tribune. “Think it’s a lot older team. I know we got 10 younger guys, but the leaders have strong mindsets. It’s always next play, next possession. And then we build from there.”

The Bulls’ bounce-back effort not only proved that this group has a different mindset compared to last season, it also shows that they will be a difficult team to beat when they get contributions from just about every player on the roster.

Nov 20, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Isaiah Canaan (0) gets a pat on the head from forward Taj Gibson (22) after he was called for traveling in the second half of the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. Bulls won 118-110. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Bulls Bench Thrives Despite Losing Scoring Battle

One of keys for the Lakers coming into this matchup was the fact that they lead the NBA in bench scoring with more than 50 points per game.

Led by 25 points from Lou Williams and 18 points from Larry Nance Jr., that trend was on display once again as they outscored Chicago’s second unit by a 59-32 margin.  Despite the scoring disparity, however, the Bulls did have a couple of noteworthy performances from their second unit.

Denzel Valentine, who missed most of training camp due to a sprained ankle, chipped in with eight points on 3-for-7 shooting.

Isaiah Canaan, who is showing that he can be a dose of instant offense off the bench, poured in 17 points on 6-for-10 shooting to go along with two rebounds and two steals.

On most nights, the starting lineup will be expected to carry the team. But in order to have long-term success, the Bulls will need contributions from the bench, which is exactly what they got in this win against the Lakers.

Nov 20, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Nick Young (0) defends a pass by Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) in the second half of the game at Staples Center. Bulls won 118-110. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Butler Makes Good On Pregame Prediction

Without his favorite running mate in the lineup, Jimmy Butler knew that the Bulls would need a huge game from him.

And from the outset, Butler torched the Lakers’ defense with an array of jump shots from the perimeter and around the rim as well.

When it was all said and done, Butler had finished a memorable night with 40 points on a very efficient 14-for-23 from the field.

He also posted seven rebounds, six assists and converted 12 of his 14 free-throw attempts, marking the eighth time this season in which he has had double-digit attempts from the charity stripe.

“With Dwyane out, we’re going to play through Jimmy a lot,” Fred Hoiberg said, via CSNChicago.com. “Jimmy did an unbelievable job of getting himself to the basket, getting to the line, making plays for his teammates.”

“He was tired this morning. I give him credit for doing what he had to do to get himself ready and rested,” Hoiberg said. “He told me before the game, ‘coach I’m going for 40 tonight’ and he did it.”

When the chips are down, a team’s star player has to shine. And it is outings like this one that continue to illustrate why Butler is one of the top-10 players in the league.

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