Lakers hold off Bulls to extend win streak
Shannon Brown tried not to take it personally when his hometown team showed no real interest in him last summer during free agency.
The Chicago Bulls probably wish they had picked up the phone after watching the Lakers' dynamic backup step in front of Kobe Bryant to help beat them.
Brown hit five 3-pointers and matched his season high with 21 points, and Bryant added 20 points in Los Angeles' fifth straight victory, 98-91 over the Bulls on Tuesday night.
The Lakers trailed early in the fourth quarter before a decisive 17-2 run led by Brown and fellow reserve Steve Blake, scoring 10 straight points to pull away. Brown scored just three points in the second half, but his aggression clearly set a tone against Chicago, which went more than 5 1/2 minutes between field goals late in its seventh straight loss to the Lakers.
"I always want to play well against the place I came from," said Brown, who is from Maywood, just west of Chicago. "I grew up watching the Bulls. I was a Bulls fan."
Brown found his groove early for the Lakers, hitting four 3-pointers in the first half when he wasn't barreling the rim. Bryant and coach Phil Jackson remain grateful for Brown's improvements during the summer, particularly in honing his steady jumper.
"He's got so much confidence right now," Jackson said. "We're encouraging him to (shoot) when it feels right. Otherwise, he's got such a great drive, teams have to play back off him because of his speed."
Brown re-signed with the Lakers at less than his probable market value so he could chase a third championship ring, but he listened to other offers. When asked if Chicago considered him to fill the gaping hole at shooting guard in its starting lineup, Brown pulled a face that indicated he's still waiting for that call.
"I don't remember," Brown said sarcastically. "I wasn't surprised. Nothing surprises me about the business of the NBA."
Lamar Odom had 21 points and eight rebounds for Los Angeles, but the two-time defending NBA champions trailed early in the fourth quarter before Derrick Rose finally slowed down. Rose scored 30 points with a series of his usual daredevil drives to the hoop, even against double-teams - but he managed just three points for the Bulls in the final period, all on free throws.
"They went small, and they made some tough shots," Rose said. "A lot of their players stepped up their game. Shannon Brown is shooting the ball well this year. He's got a lot of confidence, and he's doing great for them. Everybody in the league knows that their bench is like a transition team. They get out in the open and shoot a lot of 3s, and they were hitting them tonight."
The Lakers' lengthy run included two 3-pointers by Blake and one apiece from Matt Barnes and Brown, turning an 81-79 deficit into a 96-83 lead with 4:27 left. Chicago got just one field goal and 10 points in the final 8:13, and the Lakers improved to 8-1 at home with their 13th win in 15 games to start the season.
"The more games we have like this, the more we understand how to play off each other defensively," said Bryant, who led the Lakers with five assists.
Joakim Noah had 19 points and 13 rebounds for the Bulls, who dropped to 2-2 on their seven-game road trip while the circus occupies the United Center. USC product Taj Gibson had 16 points and 12 rebounds, and Luol Deng scored 11 of his 13 points in the first quarter.
Chicago still has won five of seven while getting off to its best start since Coach Jackson roamed the sideline in 1996.
"They put a lot of pressure on us," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "The Lakers are a heck of a defensive team. You've got to make quick decisions against them, (and) I thought we settled too much for jumpers."
Two of the NBA's deepest teams are thriving without key players who will make them even deeper. Injured power forward Carlos Boozer watched the game from Chicago's bench. The Lakers are hoping Andrew Bynum will return early next month from offseason knee surgery.
NOTES: The Lakers held a moment of silence before the game for Lucas Anthony Tang, the 2-year-old boy who died Sunday night after falling from a third-level luxury suite at Staples Center. ... Two nights after his historic 10-for-10 performance from the field, Pau Gasol managed just 12 points on 3-for-10 shooting and 11 rebounds. ... Fans near courtside included Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago mayoral candidate and former White House chief of staff, who sat with his brother, superagent Ari Emanuel, and actor Chris O'Donnell, a fellow Chicago-area native. Denzel Washington also attended the game.