Lakers open road trip by beating Bulls for fourth consecutive win
When the Lakers hit their low point of this season, after nine consecutive losses, they had two choices.
“You kind of either fold or you figure it out,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “Our guys have seemed to figure it out, for now at least.”
The Lakers beat the Chicago Bulls 108-103 on Friday night, their fourth consecutive win, all against Eastern Conference teams. They have won eight of their past 10, all since that nine-game losing streak ended and they’ve found an identity defensively.
This win for the Lakers (19-29) came against a Bulls team with almost an identical record (18-31), it came despite the Bulls erasing a 17-point deficit, and it came at the start of what will be a taxing five-game road trip.
“We’re staying together, we’re thinking defense first,” forward Brandon Ingram said. “The coaches talk about it every single day, every time we practice, every time we come into games, and we just talk about the defensive end first before anything. …
“At some point you get tired of losing. At some point I think we lost some very winnable games, and I think some of it is us growing up and realizing some of our talent on the floor and how we can utilize each other.”
Ingram led all scorers with 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds. Jordan Clarkson added 19 points, Brook Lopez 17 and Julius Randle 14.
Lopez opened the game with a hook shot over his twin brother, Bulls center Robin Lopez, and then dunked on him moments later. He had his second highest-scoring game of the month despite not playing at all in the fourth quarter.
“I felt bad for Brook but he was great tonight.”
Bulls reserve Denzel Valentine had a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds.The Bulls made 47.2% of their threes while the Lakers made only 20.8%, and it was their three-point shooting that propelled their comeback attempt. Nikola Mirotic made back-to-back threes in the fourth quarter, then Valentine hit another to cut the lead from 13 to four with 9:04 left in the game.
Three-and-a-half minutes later, Valentine hit a three to give the Bulls a 92-90 lead with 5:38 left. It was Chicago’s first lead since 4-3 in the first quarter.
But as they have done in close games lately, the Lakers didn’t let that sink them. This time they made defensive stops and seven of eight free throws in the game’s final minute.
“Defensive stops,” Walton said. “That is how you win consistently. So many NBA games come down to the end, and the players in this league are so talented that if you are not able to count on getting stops, it is 50-50 who wins those games.”
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