Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Monday night road contest against Chicago, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Clark and Howard
Bulls: K. Hinrich, R. Hamilton, J. Butler, C. Boozer, J. Noah
6:50 The big news before the game tipped off was a change in the starting line up, Mike D’Antoni opting to go small with Earl Clark at the four, and Pau Gasol to the bench to play backup center and anchor the second unit. It’s D’Antoni’s contention that the big line up of Dwight Howard at center and Gasol at power forward just wasn’t working well enough on either end, feeling that both units could play better with the two big guys split up. As for the game: some brute force from Metta World Peace helped the Lakers get back into things after the Bulls hit 4 of 6 shots to take an 8-2 lead, hitting three of four free throws with Chicago unable to defend him to make it 12-10.
2:32 Gasol came in alongside Jamison, replacing Howard and MWP, and the Lakers went right to him on the post. He drew a foul from Carlos Boozer on the first possession, but missed a wild shot on the second with Joakim Noah and Boozer defending. He wasn’t the only player missing, however, L.A. a collective 6 for 18; the Bulls weren’t having the same struggles, hitting 11 of 23 shots to take a 24-18 lead with Noah heading to the line for a clear path foul into a time out. They’d push their lead to seven after the first period.
5:53 The lead remained at seven after Nash hit a technical free throw on Nazr Mohammad – who was very upset with Howard for some reason – but the Lakers hadn’t found much of a rhythm on either end. Howard was some combination of frustrated and disconnected, with only three points and four boards through 13 minutes, though an aggressive Nash had 11 points on 4 of 7 field goals.
0:00 L.A. had cut the lead to just two on a put-back dunk from Clark, but then failed to score in the final 2:30+ of the period to allow Chicago to take a 47-40 lead into halftime. It was a disjointed performance from L.A. against a Derrick Rose and Luol Deng-less Bulls team, most notably with Howard failing to get involved on either end.
6:00 A mini run from the Lakers cut Chicago’s 10-point lead in half, but some sketchy defense saw Chicago build it right back up, with Kirk Hinrich hitting his third and his team’s seventh triple, compared to L.A.’s 1 for 10. Now, after reading that, forget about it, because the Lakers answered with a 6-0 run as Nash hit his second triple and Kobe finished an and-1 to get the Lakers within four.
3:36 L.A. had yet to lead, but an 11-2 (or 13-4 if you prefer after Jimmy Butler and Gasol exchanged made FG’s) run got the Lakers within a single point. Gasol was up to nine points on 4 of 6 field goals after hitting a second straight jumper, the Lakers starting to show solid rhythm on offense, and the effort improving on D. Jamison joined Gasol alongside MWP, Bryant and Chris Duhon, replacing Nash (16 points, six assists, four boards).
0:25.6 Finally, L.A. had a lead, as Kobe finished off his steal with a reverse layup on the other end, making it 69-67. Jimmy Butler, starting in Deng’s absence, did draw a foul and convert both free throws with 5.1 seconds left to tie it up into the fourth quarter, but alas, a 29-22 quarter for the visitors had given L.A. knew life heading into the fourth quarter.
7:18 The Bulls opened the quarter on a 6-2 run despite Bryant and Gasol both being on the floor and the Bulls throwing their bench out, but responded with a 4-0 run (Gasol a brainy put-back of MWP’s air ball and two Howard free throws after he returned) to again tie the game (75-all). L.A.’s mojo seemed to have gone, the sluggish first half play returning.
4:08 LAL’s hole grew to eight with four minutes to play when the Bulls capped an 8-0 run with a tough Butler jumper over Kobe with just seconds on the shot clock off an inbounds pass. Then Belinelli hit a triple to push it to nine, even as Nash and Clark had countered with hoops to make it 86-79.
0:00 The Bulls just kept hitting, as Boozer and Hinrich dropped more mid range J’s, while the Lakers couldn’t throw anything in, dropping to perhaps a new low on the season with a final score of 95-83. The Lakers scored 29 points in the third, but could muster just 14 in the fourth after two FT’s with 4.4 seconds left from Gasol to make final score 95-83, Bulls. L.A. lost for a third consecutive time, falling to 17-24 on the season. Up next is a Wednesday game at Memphis; we’ll see you there.