The Los Angeles Lakers are hoping to bounce back from a tightly contested 113-119 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday as they travel to Chicago to take on the Bulls in Kobe’s 15th and final appearance at the United Center.
With Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic sidelined due to injury, the purple and gold should feel good about their chances as they attempt to go 1-1 since the All-Star break. It will also be interesting to see how D’Angelo Russell responds to being given his first start since December 12.
After misses by both team on their first attempt, Chicago got on the board first with a layup from Derrick Rose before Jordan Clarkson capitalized on a Rose turnover with a finish on the other end. The Lakers then got it going by scoring on their next three possessions highlighted by a turnaround jumper from Julius Randle and a three-pointer from Kobe to take a 9-7 lead. The Bulls were able to storm back by getting to the free-throw line, including a jumper from Pau Gasol to tie the game at 15 with six minutes left in the first quarter. Both teams continued to trade buckets as Taj Gibson made Randle pay for the soft defense with a spin move leading to a dunk before D’Angelo Russell diced up the Bulls defense with a finger roll finish to tie the game at 21. Despite a 7-3 run to end the quarter, the Lakers found themselves 31-30 at the end of the first. The young bucks for the Lakers got off to a spectacular start with Russell and Randle combing to score 16 points on 8-of-13 shooting, while Gasol tallied a game-high 10 points.
The Bulls struck first to open the second with a fadeaway jumper from Aaron Brooks before Clarkson answered back with a drive and the finish to make the score 32-33. Chicago then managed to pull ahead by going on a 10-2 run thanks to consecutive three’s from Bobby Portis to take a 41-32 lead. The purple and gold were able to bounce back with a 7-0 run of their own to make it 39-41 with seven minutes left in the first half. Chicago put an end to the run with a Mike Dunleavy three before Kobe came back with a deep jumper, followed by the steal and fast-break finish by Larry Nance to cut the Bulls’ lead to one. However, Chicago was able to pull ahead once again with a 7-0 run until Randle was able to provide an instant spark with a turnaround jumper with the and-one finish to bring the score to 50-48 with three minutes to go. The string of runs would continue much the same as Chicago found themselves up 62-58 at the end of the half thanks to 7-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Russell managed to flourish in his first start since December as he finished with 11 points and four assists, while Randle posted a game-high 15 points to go with four rebounds.
Kobe got it going right out of the gate with three consecutive baseline turnaround jumpers followed by a pull-up jumper to give him 18 points while tying the game at 66. However, Chicago came out red hot as well too, going on an 8-0 run to capture a 74-66 lead. The sides continued to trade buckets as Dunleavy stayed aggressive on offense with a reverse layup, while Kobe came back with fadeaway to give him 20 points, the Bulls still up 80-72. L.A. was able to put together a 6-0 run to cut the lead 82-78 with four minutes left in the third quarter. But for every run the Lakers made, Chicago was able to answer back with a 10-0 run of their own to go up 97-81 at the end of the third quarter, their largest lead of the game.
E’Twaun Moore picked up where he left off in the third quarter with a floater to increase the lead to 19. The Lakers remained resilient as Clarkson paced the Lakers with nine straight points to cut the lead, 104-93. The purple and gold kept their foot on the gas by getting easy points off layups and free-throws before finding themselves down just 108-102 midway through the fourth. After a three from Russell, the Bulls came back with one of their own to take a controlling 114-107 lead with four minutes left in the game. The Lakers managed to cut the lead to five thanks to a step-back three from Russell. But the Bulls would rally and go on an 11-3 run to secure a 126-115 victory. Kobe finished the game with 22 points and four rebounds in his last appearance in the Windy City.