After a big win over the Clippers on Sunday night, the Bulls returned to Staples Center on Monday night and kicked the Lakers’ ass. Yes, it was without LeBron James, but the Bulls once again showed that they’re for real with a total beatdown.
The Bulls dominated this game from the opening tip, with just a few sloppy stretches littered throughout that kept things interesting at times. They didn’t trail for a single second after a Lonzo Ball 3-pointer with 8:26 remaining in the first quarter, answering every Lakers surge with a run of their own.
It was Ball who put the finishing touches on the game after one last Lakers push made it a 15-point game with just under 10 minutes to play after the Bulls had gone up 25 late in the third quarter. Ball hit a ridiculous 3-pointer in the corner, actually drove and made layup and then hit another triple as part of a big stretch to put the game away. He later made his seventh triple of the night to finish with a monster stat line of 27 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals while shooting 10-of-13 from the floor and 7-of-10 from 3-point range. He even made a mid-range shot!
It was clear Ball was motivated to show out against his former team in his hometown, and he delivered on both ends of the floor in his best game of the season. Not to be outdone, DeMar DeRozan’s MVP-caliber play continued with another massive homecoming game. DDR was fully in his bag with 38 points on 15-of-23 shooting and 2-of-5 from 3. He added six assists.
Just look at this:
Nikola Vucevic couldn’t have said it much better:
I’m really glad my recruitment pitch to Demar worked— Nikola Vucevic (@NikolaVucevic) November 16, 2021
Zach LaVine was the third star of the game, going for 26/5/5 while shooting 6-of-13 from 3-point range. LaVine has made a concerted effort to get up more 3-point shots the last couple of games, and while some of them can certainly be deemed questionable, I’m not going to complain too much when he’s hitting them at a high rate and he’s actually taking more of them like he should be.
Aside from his 3-point theatrics, LaVine also executed one of the best passes of his career, returning the favor to Ball with a long ball worthy of a QB1:
And for good measure, LaVine also had a sick dunk:
LaVine was a game-high plus-33.
Outside of some sloppy turnovers (16 for the game), Chicago’s offense was on fire, shooting a red-hot 55.1% from the field and 15-of-34 from 3-point range. And while there was some brilliant individual shotmaking, the Bulls racked up 31 assists.
Then there was the defense.
The Bulls came out with an excellent game plan against Anthony Davis, aggressively sending multiple defenders at him and forcing him to make quick decisions with the ball. He took just two shots in each of the first two quarters and had seven points at halftime as the Bulls held a 57-48 lead. He wound up with 20 points thanks to catching fire from mid-range and free throws in the third quarter, but he failed to leave an imprint on this game despite the Bulls’ small lineups. Tony Bradley did a respectable job on him to start the game while also getting plenty of help from his teammates, and then Derrick Jones Jr. was terrific as the small-ball 5 off the bench as the defense continued to swarm:
Anthony Davis was ejected for the 2nd time in his career. He was double teamed 15 times tonight, his most in any game with the Lakers. pic.twitter.com/fVjIADD2e1— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 16, 2021
Davis ultimately got thrown out of the game with the Bulls up 20 near the end of the third quarter for complaining while trying to fix his shoe. It was probably a questionable ejection, but the Lakers got the benefit of the doubt from the officials all night (31-11 advantage on free-throw attempts), so I’ll play the world’s tiniest violin for AD. Also, LeBron should definitely be suspended for charging on the court.
It did help the Bulls that the Lakers shot just 6-of-32 from 3-point range, so there was a little shooting variance luck there. But Chicago did a great job with rotations all night, especially while throwing so many bodies at Davis. They’ve consistently been very good at scrambling and getting back out to shooters when necessary.
Chicago product Talen Horton-Tucker scored a team-high 28 points and Russell Westbrook had his moments, especially in the first half to single-handedly get the Lakers back in the game when the Bulls went up 14 early, but he tapered off in the second half as the Bulls tightened up on him defensively.
I haven’t even mentioned Alex Caruso yet, and he had an incredibly impactful night despite a goose egg on the score sheet. Starting again in place of Javonte Green, Caruso had six rebounds, five assists, two steals and finished as a plus-28. The former Laker got a loud ovation during introductions and also got a tribute video. Thanks for being cheapskates, Lakers!
I also do want to make sure DJJ gets his proper due. After Bradley had some ugly offensive issues to start the game, Jones immediately came in and made an impact as the roll man. He finished strong around the rim on a number of occasions, going for 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting off the bench. That jolt of athleticism he brings is always fun to watch.
If there was a negative from this game, it’s that Coby White didn’t do anything in his return to action. White didn’t score in 11 minutes and took just two shots, missing a mid-range jumper and then getting stuffed on a drive to the basket. He grabbed a single rebound and didn’t record any other stats, and the Bulls were outscored by 15 in his minutes. It’s going to take a little time for White to get his feet under him and find a rhythm as he works his way back.
But besides that, this was a truly satisfying win to cap off an incredible back-to-back after that ugly Warriors loss. This is the first time the Bulls have swept the road LA games since the 2011-12 season, and they’re now 10-4 in 2021-22. They have two more games on this road trip, with the next one coming against the Blazers on Wednesday.