After a loss to the team with the NBA’s worst record, the Lakers faced what felt like a must-win game against the Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls have the NBA’s second-worst record and are now on an eight-game losing streak. The Lakers didn’t play especially well, but getting the win felt necessary.
Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 107-100 win over the Bulls:
1. When Lakers coach Luke Walton changed the starting lineup before Tuesday’s game, he sought a better first quarter. Whether or not that happened is arguable, but at least the Lakers won it. “It’s the first time we won [the first] quarter in maybe five games,” Kyle Kuzma said. “So, it definitely could have been a lot better but I’ll take that.”
2. The Lakers’ free-throw shooting problems are causing Walton to make some difficult decisions. Late in games, he needs defense, but he also needs players who can hit free throws. Even with their best free-throw shooter grabbing the ball as soon as possible in the final minute of Tuesday night’s game, the Lakers missed three free throws. The Bulls couldn’t capitalize, but other teams might. “It’s a balance,” Walton said. “You need good defenders and you need good free-throw shooters out there. You try to give at least a combination of both.”
3. Lonzo Ball had a really nice game for the Lakers, nearly reaching a triple double, scoring 19 points with eight rebounds and six assists. But he couldn’t finish the game due to cramping in his leg. The Lakers escaped with a win anyway, but having Ball would have helped them defensively.
4. The game was sloppy on both ends, but the Lakers did a better job of capitalizing on the Bulls’ mistakes than the Bulls did of capitalizing on theirs. While the Lakers scored 25 points off the Bulls’ 15 turnovers, the Bulls only scored 20 points off the Lakers’ 17 turnovers. This, again, is an example of something that a better team would have punished the Lakers for doing.
5. The Lakers’ two new starters, Tyson Chandler and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, had the team’s best plus/minus ratings of the game. Chandler, who started in place of JaVale McGee, had a plus/minus rating of 19. Caldwell-Pope, who started for Josh Hart, had a plus/minus rating of 14.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli