Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday afternoon 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: N. Robinson, M. Bellineli, L. Deng, C. Boozer, J. Noah
2:47 L.A. had good energy on both ends as they looked to vault past Utah into sole possession of eighth place in the Western Conference, but the early story was a bevy of missed three-pointers. The Lakers missed all seven of their attempts, including three straight wide open looks for Metta World Peace, whose shooting slump continued. But with good defense on the other end, the game was tied at 14, Chicago shooting only 35 percent from the field overall.
0:00 The Lakers scored the next six points before allowing a late Bulls bucket to close the quarter with a 20-16 lead, holding Chicago to only 33.3 percent shooting on 6 of 18 field goals, even as their 0 for 3 free throws (all Dwight Howard) 0 for 8 three-point shooting kept things from getting into double digits early. The Bulls generally make a habit of hanging tough, and they did so again here even if the Lakers lent a helping hand with the open misses.
6:02 Two free throws from Steve Nash halfway through the second came as a result of the third Nazr Mohammad foul, as Joakim Noah returned to replace his backup. Mohammad’s been called upon of late as usual reserve Taj Gibson has been out with a knee injury, shortening a Bulls squad already lacking Derrick Rose, Richard Hamilton and Kirk Hinrich. It was a 33-27 lead for L.A., who’d still yet to find a collective shooting rhythm.
0:00 L.A.’s halftime lead matched the margin after one, after Nate Robinson’s late bucket in the paint gave him 13 points with five assists to lead the Bulls, who were down 44-40. L.A. finally hit a pair of threes, but still entered the half at 2 for 17, a paltry 11.8 percent from distance. The Bulls had made only 1 of 8 from three, and were 17 of 42 overall, but capitalized on L.A.’s nine turnovers for 11 points to help ‘em hang around.
4:05 The Lakers starting clicking on offense, at last, with Bryant and Jodie Meeks nailing back-to-back threes to cap a 21-7 run to start the second half. It had been Nash doing most of the early damage, as he scored 10 of 12 Lakers points during a stretch by taking advantage of Lil’ Nate Robinson, and was up to 16 points in the game. Third quarters have been good to Nash since the All-Star break: per NBA.com stats he’s shooting 44.8% in first halves, 57.8% second halves & 60% in 3rd Q’s.
1:12 An 8-0 Bulls run cut what had been an 18-point lead down to 10, but World Peace hit a jumper (Bryant’s fourth assist) and stripped Carlos Boozer to ultimately get Kobe two free throws on the other end (Boozer foul), putting the margin at 69-55. Kobe hadn’t needed to exert himself to the same degree as in the previous two ball games, when he combined for 83 points and 24 assists, which is a good thing for L.A. Moments later, Earl Clark scored on consecutive possessions to help turn around what had been a tough game, reaching 11 points with five boards on 5 of 13 field goals. L.A.’s paint D struggled in the absence of Howard, as it has consistently, but the lead was 73-61 after three thanks to a +8 third quarter.
7:30 The Lakers went through another drought on offense with Nash and Bryant on the bench, allowing a 6-0 Bulls run to cut a 14-point lead to eight at 77-69. Howard was cleaning everything on the glass, reaching 20 boards, but couldn’t tip in that 20th at the rim. As such, Nash returned at the 7-minute mark, Bryant having re-entered moments earlier.
3:13 Bryant was doing his damage with the pass, as four straight assists had the Lakers in the clear at 86-71. He had nine dimes total, and Howard was the recipient of two of the four to reach 16 points on 8 of 14 field goals with his 21 boards.
0:00 Chicago added a few late buckets, but they were moot, as the Lakers took a 90-81 victory out of the day to jump past Utah in the standings for sole possession of eighth place, just one game back of Houston for the seventh spot and two of Golden State for the sixth. Bryant had 19 points, nine assists and seven boards, Howard the big double-double and Nash 16 points with four assists. Up next is a three-game road trip starting in Orlando on Tuesday. We’ll see you there.