With Lebron James and Rajon Rondo still inactive and wearing suits due to injuries, Lonzo Ball led the Lakers past the Chicago Bulls in the second half of a 100-107 home victory on Jan. 15.
Well the new starting lineup played with more energy early, the Lakers (24-21) seperated from the Bulls (10-34) largely due to Ball’s third quarter. Ball finished the game with 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists including a stretch where he scored 11 straight.
“I knew it was a must-win today,” Ball said about hitting big shots in the victory. “I knew I had to pick up whatever I could.”
Head Coach Luke Walton also said Ball has a knack for knocking down big shots and he’s not afraid to knock down threes when the team needs it.
The Lakers head coach added that Ball is getting better with his touch in the paint and you can start really seeing what he can do when he gets to the rim with his balance and finish.
“It was great watching him get to the rim and continuing to feel more confident and comfortable doing it.” Walton said about Ball’s performance.
The second-year guard hit a nice floater on the Lakers’ final possession of the third quarter with the Lakers up 68-76.
Further, Lonzo’s presence was seen midway through the third quarter when the Lakers point guard answered a three-pointer from Bulls guard Zach Lavine with a three of his own. On the next Lakers possession, he found McGee in the lane for an assist. The next two possessions, he found fellow second-year player Kyle Kuzma for an assist too.
On the previous possession, Ball grabbed his own miss from the post halfway through the third quarter. He converted the easy second-chance layup which gave the Lakers a small advantage. That was the start of Ball’s third quarter spark which included 13 points, three assists, three rebounds, a steal and some confidence. Other Ball highlights included the guard converting back-to-back threes which gave the Lakers a 48-50 advantage early in the third.
As to the key to his scoring stretch, Ball said he missed some shots in the first but he was open, feeling it and kept shooting in the second half.
Outside of Lonzo, Walton called it a solid team win. Kyle Kuzma did his part for the team too. Kuzma was one of four player with double-figure scoring as he finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
“We had to find a way to scrap out a win.” Walton said after the game. “And we did it.”
Walton added that he hoped the team learned a lesson about closing game as the Bulls came within a few possessions late in the fourth.
Nonetheless, the Lakers head coach mentioned Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as a player who played well on defense and Tyson Chandler as a player who helped set the tone.
Walton’s changes to the starting lineup versus the Bulls included inserting KCP and Chandler for Josh Hart and JaVale McGee. Walton promised to revisit the initial-five after the L.A.’s last loss to the Cavaliers on Jan. 13.
L.A.’s head coach liked the teams defense to start the game. However, he said he would have to revisit the tape and look at matchups to see if he sticks with the new starting lineup. Caldwell-Pope finished with 17 points and three rebounds while Chandler added eight points and five rebounds.
At halftime, the Lakers led Chicago 43-44. The Bulls had a solid team effort with nine players scoringat least one field goal. Chandler Hutchinson led the group with 8 points and a steal. He finished the game with 12 points and five rebounds.
Chicago finished the game with six players in double-digit scoring including solid production from forward Jabari Parker, Lauri Markkanen, and Zach Lavine. Parker led with 18 points off the bench while Markkanen had 17 points and Lavine added ten.
Otherwise, Caldwell-Pope led the Lakers through two quarters with nine points. Ingram was also big in the first half. He scored nine points and added five rebounds with three assists at the midway point. B.I. finished the night with 16 points, seven assists and nine rebounds.
The Lakers entered the contest after dropping seven of the last ten so they were desperate for a win. In fact, they sat in the Western Conference’s ninth seed with the same record as the tenth seeded Sacramento Kings and one less win the eighth seeded Utah Jazz. Meanwhile, Chicago sat at No. 13 in the East.
Now, the Lakers will carry their momentum to Oklahoma City for a contest versus the Western Conferences No. 3 seeded Thunder (26-17) on Thursday, Jan. 17 at 6:30 p.m. PST.