With Kobe Bryant out for a second straight time, the Los Angeles Lakers played host to the Chicago Bulls, and this time they lost, 113-93.
Kobe, who was initially going to play, sat out due to general soreness. “My knees are sore…(both) my Achilles are sore. Metatarsals are tight. Back’s tight. I just need to kind of hit the reset button,” said Kobe prior to the game. Kobe also said that it’s his “old age” that is keeping him from playing. “You’ve gotta face reality a little bit,” Bryant added.
“I think it’s one of those slow processes,” said Coach Byron Scott. “He’s put his body through a lot. I don’t think any of us will try to rush him back. We’ll go by what he says and then go from there. I didn’t get any resistance from Kobe,” Scott continued. “He told me, which I thought was great, that he’s going to let me decide and he’ll tell me how he feels.”
Derrick Rose, who’s played well of late, was hot early in the game, scoring the first seven points for his team and totaling 11 points at the end of the first half. Rose looked explosive and energetic right from the beginning, as he was trying to set the tone. However, the Lakers hung in close in first quarter, only down three.
It was the Chicago Bulls bench that made the difference in this one early in the second quarter. Nikola Mirotic and Taj Gibson each piled on six points in seven and 11 minutes respectively to extend Chicago’s lead to 16 at one point. The Bulls shot 54.5 percent from the field in the first half compared to L.A.’s 42.6 percent and owned an 11-point lead.
The Lakers came out with a better sense of urgency in the second half, but the Bulls sustained all the runs made by the Lakers. The Bulls bench was once again the difference, as they were a plus-72 combined as a unit.
Another area where the Bulls dominated was rebounding, as they out-rebounded the Lakers, 57-39. The Bulls were also a plus-15 from three and a plus-10 in the paint. The one area where the Lakers were nearly flawless was turnovers, as they only had four miscues compared to Chicago’s 14.
Pau Gasol led the way for the Bulls against his former team, scoring 23 points, grabbing 13 rebounds, and blocking two shots. Jimmy Butler put in 21 points, while Derrick Rose added 20 points and six assists.
For the Lakers, Wesley Johnson led the way with 19 points and nine rebounds. Jordan Hill had 16 points, while Carlos Boozer, who heard boos from the Chicago crowd all game long, chipped in with 14 points off the bench. Nick Young had a quiet game, scoring just three points on 1-of-6 shooting.
The Lakers shot poorly as a team, hitting an abysmal 39.1 percent of their shots. The Bulls, meanwhile, shot 48.8 percent.
After the game, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant shared a long hug. Boozer was also reunited with his former teammates, as he went over and shared some laughs and hugs with his old friends.
The Lakers drop to 9-20 with this loss, as the Bulls win their fifth straight game and improve to 20-9. They currently stand fourth in the East and are still a half game behind the third seeded Washington Wizards.
The Lakers will be back in action tomorrow, December 26th, against the Dallas Mavericks, in a game where Kobe Bryant said he is unlikely to play. The Bulls will host the New Orleans Pelicans next on Saturday, December 27th.