Cast your mind back to the 22nd of November, 2013. Here, we find a Lakers team that is expecting impending failure as the season kicks off and a Bulls team that are hopeful of a title charge as their hometown hero returns after over a year off of basketball activities. A surprisingly confident start to the Lakers season had left fans feeling cautiously optimistic that the team could leave the year with some dignity from what potentially may be a horrific campaign. This night, the team performed well in a 95-102 victory against the Golden State Warriors, avenging their mauling on the second night of the season. Across the country, the Chicago Bulls fans were feeling the polar opposites of emotions. They’d lost on the road to a Portland team who were flowing with confidence coming off an 11-2 start to the season. They’d played atrociously. Undoubtedly above all, they had lost their all-star point guard.
Skip forward almost two and a half months to this Sunday and the fates of both teams have swapped once again. Following the loss of Rose, the Bulls were resistant against claims that they should “tank” leaving them with a 24-25 record going into tonight’s fixture. As for the Lakers? I’ll let you fill in the gaps. Our team is in a nasty shape but you don’t need to hear that any more than you already have. Ultimately, Los Angeles this evening will be faced with the tricky challenge of breaking down the infamous Bulls defense, the staple to their season which could have crumbled a long, long while ago.
Tonight’s game will be the first in Los Angeles for the team since the 110-100 defeat to the Charlotte Bobcats last Friday and after a largely successful 3 game road trip that included wins at the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Philadelphia 76ers, the team are coming home. The Lakers could match a season high winning streak of three (yes, three) games tonight and such a case is possible after shooting an impressive 51.8% from the field in their last two games. As for the Bulls, this will be the last matchup on their six-game road trip and a win would take their trip total to 2-4. Apart from wins vs the San Antonio Spurs and the Phoenix Suns, this has been a predictably poor outing for the team.
With the Lakers missing the inside presence of Pau Gasol (still out for aprox. Two weeks), the team could face a roadblock at the hands of Joakim Noah. Averaging a double-double this season is one thing on paper but consider that he will likely be faced with Robert Sacre and the paint could be an issue of concern tonight. In his last two games vs the Lakers, Noah has scored 35 points with 38 rebounds to go with that, a worrying statistic especially with so many injuries plaguing the team.
Despite the injuries to Gasol, Meeks, Blake and Farmar, the team have been boosted by the return of Steve Nash who’s impressive 19 points on Friday night came as a surprise to many LA fans.
Despite the star power of Rose, Bryant and Gasol being noticeably absent, the matchup tonight could certainly still provide some shocks, much like the game last month which saw a Taj Gibson layup at the buzzer sink the Lakers 102-100. In that game, Nick Young posted a season-high 31 points for the team however with his absence tonight, the scoring burden will once more have to be shared throughout the side.
Whilst both of these teams have been ravaged by injury, the Lakers are on course to have the most games missed from injury by players since the Golden State Warriors in the 2000-2001 season. Whilst the game could be a difficult matchup for the Lakers, the chances of them clocking a win are high if they manage to maintain their momentum from their last two wins and against a Bulls team who have 5-5 in their last 10, such a scenario is certainly possible.