Lakers – Bulls Running Diary

Kobe BryantRead about the Lakers vs. Bulls games as it unfolds. As always, feel free to refresh your browser for live updates throughout the game … On second thought, I guess they wouldn’t technically be “live” updates since you have to press refresh. But whatever.

Previous Lakers – Bulls Running Diary/Postgame
Lakers – Bulls Running Diary 11-18-2008
Lakers 116, Bulls 109

Inactives
Lakers: Sun Yue, Andrew Bynum
Bulls: Luol Deng, Jerome James

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Ariza, Odom, Gasol
Bulls: Derrick Rose, Ben Gordon, John Salmons, Tyrus Thomas, Joakim Noah

Phil Jackson Pregame
Jackson dismissed the notion that there were anything but good memories of his time in Chicago, talked about playing conservatively on the road in a tough arena (Chicago had won seven straight home games), said that “the kids don’t read much these days” but that he still gives out books occasionally and touched on the MVP race (Kobe’s his favorite).

First Quarter
12:00 It’s still cool to hear the Bulls intro music that was stamped into the minds of any basketball fans who grew up watching Michael Jordan and Co. Of course, the coolest part of those intros was when the crowd noise grew so loud after the: “From Nooorth Carrolinaa … At guard … 6-6 …” that you couldn’t actually hear the PA guy say “Michael Jordan!!!” Here’s a clip that doesn’t fully encapsulate it, but gets the idea.

11:29 Good start for the purple and gold, who stole the ball on back-to-back possessions to net an Ariza layup and 1-of-2 Pau free throws.

9:32 Another Lakers steal produced a break-out layup from Ariza to put L.A. up 9-4. Since Ariza began starting last week, the Lakers are 4-1, blemished only by Andre Iguodala’s game-winning three-pointer for Philly. He’s averaged 14.6 points, 4.6 boards and 2.8 steals in those contests.

8:23 Bryant made his second jumper to put L.A. up 13-4 early as the run continued. The Lakers were scoring mostly off their defense, which forced the Bulls to take contested jumpers…

… At least until the 6:45 mark, when Gordon got all the way to the cup for a layup that capped an 8-0 run on the heels of two straight made jumpers.

6:12 The run grew to 10 when Rose got to the rim a bit too easily, though Odom answered with a three-pointer out of a timeout to put L.A. back up, 16-14.

2:32 John Salmons is a big reason why Chicago’s won seven straight at home, as he proved after picking Bryant’s pocket and then finishing in transition at the other end. His hoop preceded a Thomas swat of Odom and a Gordon three in transition to put Chicago up 30-22. Quick math shows that Chicago was on a 26-7 run after L.A.’s fast start.

0:00 Two more Bulls’ buckets doubled Gasol’s fourth field goal and sent Chicago into the second quarter with a 10-point lead. L.A. had a tough time with Chicago’s athleticism in transition, and started missing some easy shots, not a good recipe for success.

Second Quarter
10:30 Salmons continued to hurt the Lakers with two perimeter jumpers, his fourth and fifth makes in six attempts for 13 points, putting Chicago up 38-26.

9:46 Kirk Hinrich’s three was quickly answered by a triple from Kobe, but nonetheless, Chicago has a pretty nice rotation going. They have the luxury of bringing Hinrich and Brad Miller, two solid players, off the pine, both of whom gave L.A.’s second unit some problems.

8:01 The problems continued, as yet-to-sit Gasol grew frustrated with the very handy defense (grabbing, holding, slapping) of Noah, resulting in a bad miss from the 4-of-10 Spaniard. And, as they’d done all game, Chicago quickly turned the miss into points, with Thomas streaking past the tired-looking Lakers for a layup that equaled the Bulls’ largest margin, 15.

5:55 Just a guess here, but I’m thinking Joakim Noah is one of the most annoying players to play against in the league. Not only does he have a great motor, but he’s sweaty, long, dramatic and loud. Exhibit B (if his defense on Pau was A): While going after a loose ball, Noah slapped at Odom twice, banged into Ariza and finally collapsed to the ground as if hit on the head by a t-shirt cannon blast after Odom bumped him back.

4:39 Noah just whined at Rose after allowing Mbenga to get an offensive rebound, which ultimately resulted in a Mbenga power-dunk thanks to Bryant’s feed. Not to pile on or anything.

3:07 L.A. simply looks lethargic, and hasn’t been able to match Chicago’s energy. This is the formula that turns into losses to teams that aren’t as good as L.A. on paper, and was documented as Odom missed a layup and Noah tipped in a Rose miss at the other end to make it 53-39.

2:05 Another sloppy turnover, L.A.’s ninth, came after Bryant stole the ball and threw an alley-oop pass out of Ariza’s reach. Fortunately for L.A., Gordon missed an open three at the other end, Odom drove all the way to the rim for a bucket and Fisher used Ariza’s steal to hit an open jumper. Like that, the Lakers were within 10.

0:03.8 Ariza followed a Bryant miss to make it an 11-point game, but Salmons hit a buzzer-beating, leaning three-pointer to put the Bulls up 62-48 at the half. He finished with 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting to pace Chicago, which also got 14 from Rose. Bryant led the Lakers with 13, but needed 12 shots to get there, while Ariza had 10 points and five rebounds. Nonetheless, the Salmons’ three was pretty indicative of the entire first half, since L.A. didn’t get back quick enough to prevent the good look. You know, the whole energy argument.

Your stat of the half: Chicago outscored L.A. 20-7 in fastbreak points. Stat No. 2: Chicago shot a way-too-high 59.1 percent from the field.

Lamar OdomThird Quarter
Much like Thursday’s game at STAPLES, expect the Lakers to come out strong out of the half. Whether or not they can sustain their initial burst should decide the game.

11:14 Bryant’s first jumper of the game, with Gordon defending, went down, something L.A. will need to see quite a few more times to erase the double-digit lead.

10:11 Ariza three-pointers will help too … This one cut the lead to 10 once again. On the other hand, one thing L.A. really needs to avoid is Odom picking up foul number four early in the quarter … But instead of a foul, Odom got to the rack after Pau’s board and outlet pass to make it 63-55 Bulls.

8:39 The third quarter burst continued with a Bryant jumper and Fisher pull-up triple from Kobe to make it just a three-point lead, chipping 11 points off the halftime lead. While the shots were falling, it was defensive intensity that did the trick, again forcing Chicago to take long jumpers similar to what they were taking in the game’s first five minutes. Of course, when your shots are going in, it’s much easier to get back on defense and set up.

7:01 The lead was just one after Ariza nailed his second triple, putting him at 16 points. Salmons then managed to hit a jumper, but Bryant responded with a forceful one-handed dunk.

5:55 Getting into the penalty too early hurt the Lakers as a Fisher foul on the perimeter put Miller at the foul line, allowing Chicago to go up 71-68. The foul line was the only place Chicago was getting points as they’d been outscored 23-8 to start the third.

3:22 Unable to get closer than two points, Gasol’s tip-in was canceled by a Rose finish at the rim. Bryant missed two shots on the next possession, which Chicago turned into a layup at the other end from Hinrich to go back up by seven at 81-74. Basically, any time L.A. missed a shot or turned the ball over, the Bulls streaked up the floor for points.

1:03 Good defensive play from Farmar to draw a Gordon charge, though the Lakers were unable to convert the TO into points as Gasol camped out in the lane. The refs killed Pau again with a brutal late whistle that put Salmons at the line after he missed a layup, allowing an 85-78 Bulls lead. By the way, L.A.’s bench had scored just seven points with two assists and three rebounds.

0:03.5 This time it was the Lakers getting to the line, with Kobe drawing the reach on Salmons and hitting two free throws to make it a six-point deficit at the break. It was a better start than finish to the quarter for L.A., but nonetheless, eight points had been trimmed off Chicago’s lead.

Fourth Quarter
12:00 I was skeptical of Chicago’s tramp-dunk team before they started, since no guy was over 5’2”, and sure enough, they were by far the worst I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t just me – the fans roundly booed the poor kids. I’m talking like, 23 missed dunks. Horrible.

10:36 L.A.’s bench had been struggling to contribute in meaningful ways for weeks now, but it was off to a good start in the fourth. First came a Walton isolation play on the smaller Salmons (on a play probably called by Walton’s friend Farmar), then two consecutive nice plays from Vujacic – a steal and a 26-foot triple after he rebounded Farmar’s layup attempt.

10:11 While Chicago had managed just two points, both on free throws thanks to a swarming Lakers’ defense, Odom followed Vujacic by nailing a triple. Phil Jackson had switched things up by starting Odom instead of Gasol with the second unit, and certainly worked for the first two minutes: tie game, 89-89.

9:38 There was Walton, again taking advantage of Salmons, plus the harm, to give L.A. its first lead since the first quarter.

7:41 Neither the defense (still swarming) nor the shooting (three-straight jumpers, including a Vujacic 21-footer, Farmar triple and Powell 16-footer) slipped a bit as L.A.’s bench turned a six-point deficit into a 6-point lead…

6:26 That became a 102-93 advantage after another Farmar triple. No question, that was the best six-minute stretch we’ve seen from the bench in recent memory.

4:22 Clearly pumped up by the bench, Kobe (who did his thing where he aggressively and approvingly slaps the back of his teammates’ heads when they do something well) and Pau returned and immediately pushed the lead to 13. Bryant assisted as Gasol canned a 14-footer and then as Farmar exploded for an impressive baseline dunk in traffic. When the damage was done, L.A. had reeled off a 14-0 run to take complete control of the game while completely silencing what had been a rowdy, celebratory crowd.

3:31 Just for good measure, Bryant nailed a triple from Vujacic to push the lead to 15, and the Bulls were done.

0:52 L.A.’s final points would come from Gasol thanks to Vujacic, putting L.A. up 117-104. Chicago managed to reel off five points in the final seconds, but still fell by eight after leading by 14 at the half.

With that, L.A. had its 55th win.