Chicago Bulls at Los Angeles Lakers
Time: 9:30 PM CT (TNT)
Spread: CHI -8.5
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The Los Angeles Lakers have just continued to lose and now possess a 9-38 record as losers of its past seven games. The visiting Chicago Bulls are just 9-10 on the road, but it finds itself 8.5 point favorites against a team so little is going right for. The game will air at 9:30 Central on TNT.
The Lakers have not been in games either. Over the seven-game skid, every single defeat save the last came by double-digits. The Lakers nearly knocked off the Dallas Mavericks last night, but Dirk Nowitzki was there to bail out Dallas with a late jumper. Jordan Clarkson and Louis Williams combined for 32 points but shot just 10 of 28 together, as the Lakers were good for just 40.5 percent from the floor in the game. The difference for the Lakers was getting to the line 28 times while turning it over just a dozen times in the game.
The Lakers do only average 13.4 turnovers per game but the team also only scores 96.3 points per game this season.
Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.8 points per game to lead the Lakers, but many wish the torch were being handed over more graciously. Bryant is shooting just 34.7 percent from the floor and 24.9 percent from three point range. Bryant did not even play in the Lakers’ close call with Dallas. In the four games prior he had averaged seven points per game on 36 percent shooting. Kobe is expected to play in this game, but it might not really matter. He sat with a shoulder injury in that Dallas game and the Lakers had their first non-blowout in two weeks.
On the rare occasions that the Lakers have won, though, Bryant has been his old self. In L.A.’s seven wins Bryant is averaging 20.1 points, 4.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game. The fact remains that he cannot sustain this high level of play and his going away party is featuring copious numbers of bricks.
The Bulls have lost three of its last four games, falling to the Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat. The Bulls lost 89-94 to Miami on Jan 26, as it allowed the Heat to outscore them 28-16 in the final period. Jimmy Butler had an off game, going just 5 of 15 from the field for 13 points. Pau Gasol came up big with 19 points and 17 boards in 37 minutes of play.
Prior to that game Butler had averaged 21.7 points per game. He had 28 points and 14 rebounds in the 110-101 loss to the Boston Celtics on Jan 22.
Butler is making a strong case for the First All-NBA team as one of the premier two-way talents in the league. He is averaging 22.3 points, 4.2 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game. He has become Chicago’s premier player with Gasol and Derrick Rose flanking him as a supporting cast. Chicago cannot be counted out in the postseason given the experience of its roster and the relative depth and talent level the Bulls possess.
Gasol may not intend to come back, but it has not stopped him from having a great season. The veteran Spaniard is averaging 16.6 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.69 blocks/steals per game while being just one of three Bulls (Rose and Butler being the other) to average more than 30 minutes a night.
The Bulls are without Joakim Noah for the rest of the season, but his talents in some senses were a redundancy with Gasol being able to pass from the high post, too.
Forward Taj Gibson has stepped into a starting role and Nikola Mirotic will likely see a slight up-tick in time, as well. Mirotic has shot woefully this season, though, and over his past five games he is shooting 39.5 percent while averaging nine points and five rebounds per game. The Bulls need his shooting stroke to re-align, as he is hitting just 35.4 percent from three this season.
Even as a rookie, though, “Niko” was less than 40 percent from the floor and hit just 33 percent of his triples. Perhaps his billing as a sharpshooter is just overstated. Whatever the case, the Bulls have the depth to make a run even in the improved Eastern Conference.
As long as Butler is suiting up, the Bulls have a superstar capable of huge nights. Butler scored 53 points in a 115-111 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Jan 14. That outburst alone shows just how powerful the Bulls could be with an engaged Butler. His effort level sets the tone for a Bulls team that has to be considered a “second-tier” contender.