Russell questionable when Lakers host Bulls
Fighting back from a double-digit deficit to make a final score respectable against an elite Western Conference team might have been seen as a moral victory for the Los Angeles Lakers in recent seasons.
Especially when their loss totals were 61 and 65.
This year, the young Lakers are not accepting losing a close game or making a score more respectable.
Los Angeles is in the beginning stages of a difficult stretch of its schedule that might give a clearer idea about how it stacks up and it continues Sunday night when it hosts the Chicago Bulls.
Los Angeles has won seven of its first 13 games with notable wins over the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks. The Lakers had a chance at another noteworthy win Friday but ultimately could not stop the San Antonio Spurs from making enough big shots in a 116-107 loss.
Los Angeles was tied with the Spurs early in the third quarter and fell behind by as many as 15 before making the final margin closer.
“Last year, we would have been out of this game if we were down by that much,” Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson said. “We're out here to compete every night now. We're not OK with any loss.”
Friday was the first of a hellacious week for the Lakers. After facing Chicago, Los Angeles hosts the Oklahoma City Thunder, plays a home-and-home with Golden State and hosts Atlanta before playing 12 of its next 15 games on the road.
Regardless of their feelings, the Lakers may play Sunday without second-year guard D'Angelo Russell. Russell missed Friday's game with a sore left knee and coach Luke Walton does not expect it to be a long-term problem.
“It makes it really hard,” Lakers forward Julius Randle said. “(Russell) gets us in our stuff, obviously can really score the ball. He's a great leader for us.”
Russell did not practice Saturday and received treatment on the knee. He will be re-evaluated Sunday and is listed as questionable.
“His knee has been bothering him (but) he's been playing through it,” Walton said. “It started hurting more, so they decided last night when he got to the arena to shut him down.”
Russell leads the Lakers with 16.8 points per game, slightly ahead of veteran Lou Williams. Williams scored 24 Friday and has helped the Los Angeles reserves lead the league in scoring at 51 points.
Chicago had its four-game winning streak stopped by imploding in the fourth quarter of a 102-95 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers Saturday night. The Bulls led by 19 in the second quarter but allowed 30 points in the fourth and made one basket in the final 6 1/2 minutes.
Dwyane Wade scored 28 points but shot 9-of-20, including 1-of-5 in the fourth quarter. Jimmy Butler added 22 but was even more inefficient by shooting 5-of-18.
“It was a good night for us, we just didn't come out with the win,” Wade said. “It's the NBA, leads are whatever. I'd rather have a 19-point lead in the second half. I'm not all about the 20-point leads in the first half, especially on the road. A team is going to come back and the game is going to turn in their favor.
Saturday was even more frustrating for Chicago as coach Fred Hoiberg was ejected in the waning seconds after Taj Gibson got called for a technical foul. That came shortly after Butler was called for a questionable foul on Blake Griffin as the shot clock was winding down, resulting in a four-point deficit from the foul shots.
Chicago also lost for the first time when taking a lead into the fourth quarter and the collapse cost the Bulls their first 3-0 start to their annual “circus trip” since 1995.
Chicago has swept the season series with the Lakers in two of the last three seasons. Last season, Butler scored 26 in the Bulls' 114-91 win at Los Angeles on Jan. 28.