USA TODAY Sports
big 3rd quarter provides a big-enough lead for L.A.
The Bulls offense struggled all day today in L.A., as they shot 37% in a 90-81 loss to the Lakers. Nate Robinson had some good spurts to lead the Bulls with 19 points, but they came on 19 shots, some of which were mind-scratchingly bad. Nate played well enough to not get pulled (Teague only played 3:15), as the alternative to his shotmaking was unlikely to be much better: Belinelli was 5-15, Boozer 4-16, and Deng 5-16.
Joakim Noah did have a fine effort with 18 points and 17 rebounds in 40 minutes, but Dwight Howard slightly bested him as he and the Lakers did a ton of damage on the offensive glass. The Lakers also had their shooting struggles (including a paltry 5-26 from three) but made up for it with a 40% offensive rebound rate. The Bulls inability to finish their defensive possessions really killed them, especially early.
Later, it was more of a struggle to guard the Lakers pick and roll. Though only down 4 at halftime, the Lakers wound up building a 18-point lead at one point on the back of Steve Nash, who had 10 points in the first part of the third quarter. Both he and later Kobe Bryant would be using high-screeners to attack Carlos Boozer, and things would either result in a midrange jumper or an easy finish for Howard around the rim. This is the cascading effect of the Bulls injuries: we could fault the Bulls for a lack of focus, but ultimately we're talking about exploiting defenders like Robinson, Belinelli, and Boozer instead of better defenders like Gibson and Hinrich. The scheme, as great as it is, can break down against these lesser components.
The Bulls battled back to come within 8 at one point (they hit the offensive glass hard themselves, it should be said), but did not have the firepower to overcome a deficit of that size. Bryant may have been relatively slowed tonight (19 points on 16 shots), but he hit enough late to keep the lead comfortably from reach of what the Bulls could offer up offensively.