The leaders of the Pacific and Central divisions collide tonight as the (12-2) Lakers return to Staples Center for a match-up with the (7-4) Chicago Bulls.
The Purple and Gold are on a four-game winning streak; the Bulls are 2-1 on their seven-game Western Conference road trip. The Bulls had a four-game winning streak snapped by the Spurs, but bounced back nicely for a big win over the Mavericks.
The Bulls are a talented young team moving in the right direction. They have gotten out to a fast start. Surprising after hearing the news that free-agent pick up Carlos Boozer would be sidelined for the first six-weeks of the season as some considered this team to have been left for dead. The Bulls felt differently and have found a way to persevere; it is safe to say that the light is starting to come on.
The Bulls are still learning head coach Tom Thibodeau’s proven defensive system, but their currently 12th in the league allowing 98.3 points.
Derrick Rose is one of the best young point guards in the league. Rose has great athleticism, a quick first step and ranks as one of the strongest finishers in the paint. Former USC Trojan Taj Gibson has stepped in admirably for Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah has been solid in the paint.
The Lakers are a rhythm team getting a business-like contribution from everyone, playing in a good rhythm right now and proving daily that this year’s version of the team is the deepest the team has ever had. Their defense is improving; the team will have its hands full with Derrick Rose. They have to stop the dribble penetration of Rose and keep him out of the painted area. The Bulls are running their offense though Rose; he will have an impact on this game, but the Lakers need to make him a distributor.
The Lakers have to control the tempo of the game and the glass. The Bulls led the league in rebounding last year and currently rank third.
The Bulls have an excellent opportunity to end the year as the third or fourth seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. They also present a nice early season challenge for the Lakers. The Lakers needs to play solid defense, get back in transition and put up a wall in front of Derrick Rose and force him to use his mid-range game.
The Lakers have to continue to run their offense through Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant. They’re the best inside/outside combination in the NBA and near impossible to stop.
The Lakers defense, experience, efficiency, depth, decision making and execution down the stretch will carry the Purple and Gold to victory.
Tip-off: 7:30 PM PST
- Los Angeles: FS West (Joel Myers & Stu Lantz)
- Chicago: Comcast SportsNet, WGN 9 (Neil Funk & Stacey King)
- Los Angeles: ESPN 710 AM (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
- Chicago: ESPN 1000 AM (Chuck Swirsky & Bill Wennington)
- Andrew Bynum (Right Knee) Out
- Theo Ratliff ( Left Knee) Out
- Lamar Odom (Sore Right Foot)
- Carlos Boozer (Right Hand) Out
- Kyle Korver (Right Knee) Probable
- Taj Gibson (Pinched Nerve in Right Foot) Out