Game: Lakers (32-21) vs. Chicago Bulls (35-27)
Where: Staples Center
Time: 12:30 p.m.
The Lakers’ zest for breathless, comeback victories may come to an end.
The Lakers are about to face a Chicago Bulls team that will make it difficult to beat should they fall behind early. The Bulls lead the NBA in total defense (91.4 points per game). Even without star point guard Derrick Rose (ACL injury), the Bulls have made up for his absence with a bruising frontline in Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. The Bulls also have explosive scorers in Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli.
The Lakers (32-31) are currently in ninth place behind the Utah Jazz (32-31), which has the season tie-breaker against them. Half of the Lakers’ 20 remaining teams are against opponents who would been in the playoffs if the season ended today. Yet, the Lakers have only gone 9-25 against such teams, including a 95-83 loss Jan. 21 in Chicago.
“We talked about it where if we start off better, we’d be able to save energy,” D’Antoni said. “But you got to do what you got to do. It’s a long season and everyone will play hard.”