Lakers 87, Bulls 88: X-Mas Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s X-Mas Day contest against Chicago, the Lakers opening the Mike Brown era in search of win No. 1, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Ebanks, McRoberts and Gasol
Bulls: D. Rose, R. Hamilton, L. Deng, C. Boozer, J. Noah

9:02 In a slow-paced start, L.A. managed an 8-6 edge after two Kobe free throws and a Gasol tip-in of Fisher’s transition miss. Rip Hamilton, the lone new Bull, took just three minutes picking up his second personal trying to defend Kobe, bringing in Ronnie Brewer (better on D, worse on O).

4:31 A very strong start for the Lakers produced a 18-10 lead despite two FT misses from Gasol, who led with eight points. Mike Brown could be pleased with his team defense, which rotated very well to eliminate any open perimeter looks, and kept Rose out of the paint.

0:00 From that point on, it was all Chicago, anchored by their terrific bench from a defensive standpoint. Omer Asik and Taj Gibson anchored the league’s best reserve D last season, and return intact with C.J. Watson and Brewer, keeping L.A. from getting anything easy. L.A.’s starting unit was very strong, however, holding last year’s MVP, Rose, without a bucket and a single assist.

10:20 Seeing his first NBA action in somewhat of a surprise, second round pick Andrew Goudelock rose to drain a triple. Steve Blake — already looking exceedingly more comfortable than he did last season — sandwiched that effort with his own three and 2-of-3 FT’s to put L.A. up 28-25. Strong lift from the back court bench duo.

5:41 L.A. continued to get contributions from uncommon sources, as Troy Murphy added a put-back bucket and 1-of-2 FT’s, but eight turnovers led to 10 Bulls points, enabling the visitors a 36-33 lead halfway through the second. Turnovers were a problem in the preseason as well, which Coach Mike Brown attributed in part to new players in a new system.

2:00 Thought you might want to know that Maroon 5′s Adam Levine got loose on the Kiss Cam w/girlfriend Anne V (a Google search renders her a Victoria’s Secret model). Meanwhile, L.A.’s starters picked up the strong play they opened with, getting buckets from Ebanks and McRoberts (alley-oop), but after cutting Chicago’s lead to one conceded the last six points on a Deng corner 3 and and-1 layup in transition with 1.4 seconds left, putting the Bulls up 56-49. Rough end to an otherwise solid half.

7:54 After two scoreless minutes, Bryant opened the second half scoring with a breakaway two-handed dunk, and followed with two free throws. Gasol pitched in with a beautiful baseline spin move around Noah he finished with a dunk, bringing L.A. within two at 59-57. Related: after Gasol’s bucket, we saw the first mutual-admiration high five from Kobe and Pau, which Bryant saves for when he really likes what the Spaniard has to offer.

4:16 A terrific third quarter continued for L.A. as Gasol got a difficult jumper to fall over Asik’s outstretched hand, putting L.A. up 67-63, capping an 18-7 run. Rose did answer with his fourth triple, bringing Chicago back within a point, finding a way to hurt L.A. despite being unable to get into the paint.

0:26.2 A great slip move from McRoberts and Blake’s recognition got McRoberts a wide open two-handed dunk, putting L.A. up 69-68, a lead they’d hold going into the fourth after McRoberts stripped Asik on the other end. Really impressive contribution from Mac, as he likes to be called, in his first game as a Laker.

10:20 The first five points of the quarter came not from Kobe and Pau, but Goudelock and Murphy. Who’d have thunk it? The rookie with no conscious hit his second three, while Murphy bailed out a poor possession with a long two that made it 74-68. Staples Center loved it even more when Blake’s jumper capped an 8-0 run to put L.A. suddenly up eight.

6:00 They’d still be up eight minute later, as Noah’s fifth personal put him back on the bench, L.A. using a crunch time unit of Blake-Bryant-Artest-McRoberts-Gasol. The defense had been terrific, Chicago making only 6-of-33 FG’s in the second half (18.2 percent), making Mike Brown proud. Chicago would miss its next seven shots, falling down to 14 percent.

2:33 Chicago finally got some offensive life off a Bryant turnover (Deng breakaway dunk) and Gasol missed jumper (Brewer pull-up jumper), cutting L.A.’s 11-point lead down to five at 82-77. Then, however, came a big-time three from Blake late in the shot clock to push the lead back to eight. Yet moments later, Gasol and McRoberts went a combined 0-for-4 at the foul line to keep Chicago in striking distance. The game anything but over…

0:54.6 An absolutely exquisite fadeaway off the baseline from, you guessed it, Kobe (who so smartly knew how to get to his spot despite a double team coming) sank through, putting L.A. up six, though Deng countered with an and-1 off a Brewer 3-point miss. The lead then fell to just one after Kobe’s miss, and two FT’s from Deng when Bryant fouled him after a long rebound (Chicago was in the bonus).

0:04.8 A terrific game turned very sour on L.A. in the final minute, a six-point lead blown when Bryant’s pass to Gasol was intercepted near midcourt, L.A. only having to catch and shoot free throws. Instead, Rose collected the ball and drove in the paint to get a floater to fall with 4.8 seconds left. On the other end, Bryant had his shot blocked at the buzzer, Chicago pulling off a 7-0 run in the final minute to pull a win out of Staples Center. Tough pill to swallow for the Lakers, who’d done so many things right to put themselves in position to win. They’d have little time to think about it, with a 9 p.m. flight to Sacramento.