NBA Analysis: Lakers, Kobe Inconsistent vs. Bulls

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If the Lakers played the rest of the game Friday like they did at the beginning and the end, they wouldn’t have suffered their fifth loss in their last eight games. But, in yet another lackluster effort, the Lakers fell short to the Bulls at the United Center, 88-84.

The game started well for the world champs, as they jumped out to 13-point lead in the first quarter, and still led 29-20 midway through the second.  But that’s when the wheels came off, as Derrick Rose got hot, and the Bulls went on a 16-3 run to end the half, and take a 36-32 lead into the break.

In the second half, things didn’t get much better.  The Lakers took a couple brief leads early in the third quarter, but couldn’t stop Rose from breaking down the defense inside, and stepping out for three-pointers. Eventually they found themselves down 82-69 with just over three minutes left in the game.

That’s when the Lakers put on a furious rally, and got as close as 83-80 with 48 seconds left after a Derek Fisher three-pointer from the corner.  After Rose split a pair of foul shots to put the Bulls up 86-82, Kobe Bryant was fouled, but he was only able to make 1-2 from the line.  After a Lakers’ foul on the rebound, Ronnie Brewer hit two from the line, and the Bulls had the win.

Bryant led the Lakers with 23 points, but only shot 9-23 from the field, and continues to struggle from the foul line, going 4-6 on Friday.  Pau Gasol did have a solid game with 21 points, eight rebounds, and four blocked shots.   Lamar Odom added 18 points and eight rebounds.

Early on, the Lakers dominated the game inside, with Gasol the recipient of several easy scores inside.  As the night wore on however, the Lakers got away from going inside, starting taking a lot of three-pointers and watched their early double-digit lead slip away quickly.  They hit just 3-13 from beyond the arc for the game.

Derrick Rose led all scorers with 29 points, to go along with nine assists, five rebounds, and several key baskets down the stretch, as the Bulls beat the Lakers for the first time since 2006.  In fact only one member of the current Bulls was on the team when they last beat the Lakers, and that was Luol Deng.

Deng scored 14 points, and Carlos Boozer added 10 points and 11 rebounds.  Boozer didn’t play the first time the two teams met this year in Los Angeles, a 98-91 Lakers’ win.

The Bulls didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, hitting only 41.3% from the field, but made up for it by hitting 8-17 (47.1%) from the three-point line, which proved to be the difference in the game.

In a rather disheartening statistic, the Lakers have now only beaten two teams this season with a winning record, but will play just one more .500 team (Indiana) during the rest of this five-game trip.

The Lakers’ next game is Sunday in New Jersey against the slumping Nets.  Also, the Lakers are hoping to have center Andrew Bynum back for Tuesday’s game in Washington.