NBA Christmas Day Thoughts: Chicago Bulls at Los Angeles Lakers

Chicago Bulls 88 – LA Lakers 87

 

This was the best played game of the day, and much of it came down to the defense taking over for stretches, and each offense taking off for stretches, the Bulls notably being unable to score in the third and the Lakers suffering the same in the fourth.  For even the best teams in basketball, these stretches happen, and these two teams both played up to their considerable potential besides an unenviable amount of shots rimming out.

 

For Chicago, despite Rose’s last second shot, the stars of the game were Luol Deng and Joakim Noah.  Deng didn’t shoot well, but going 6-6 from the line, providing stifling defense, including both the game turning steal and game sealing block to go with 7 boards and 3 assists, he was irreplaceable.  He should have been on Kobe Bryant all game, as he’s the lone Bull with the length to really hassle that superstar wing.   Noah’s stats weren’t impressive at all unless you watched the game, upon which it becomes impossible to notice that the guy is simply all over the floor as a help defender, and forced, along with Deng, the really poor shooting late from the Lakers. Add in 15 efficient points from Boozer and the starters, besides newcomer Rip Hamilton, who Kobe overpowered, had quite the good game.  With the usual strong bench play, the game was close enough for a newly efficient Derrick Rose to pick his spots and win the game.

 

The Lakers, meanwhile, looked once more like title contenders.  Without their third best player, Andrew Bynum, they played among the best teams in the league to an essential standstill.  Best news for this squad isn’t Kobe Bryant looking 5-years younger, though that’s naturally huge, but that 2-newcomers, one veteran and one youngster seem poised to become key rotation cogs.  Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy both played excellent basketball, with the former showing much of what departed Lamar Odom took with him to Dallas, and the latter showing he can rebound and spread the floor.  Devin Ebanks was efficient and capably held down Metta World Peace’s starting spot, allowing the latter to come in as a wing stopper and be a scorer off the bench.  And Steve Blake played well as a point guard – if his shot falls more consistently going forward, the Lakers will be tough to beat, as he’s far better defensively at this point than Derek Fisher in at least he has a chance to stay in front of his man.  When Bynum comes back, there’s a capable frontcourt rotation here, and this team is seemingly a backup point guard, Aaron Brooks will eventually come back from China, away from competing again, barring injury, though with their age, that’s far from a sure thing.

 

  • The Lakers have a lot of players with holes in their games, but if they can manage to play everyone 20-minutes a night, like this, they can highlight the positives, not the negatives.

 

  • Much will be written about Pau Gasol’s bad game, but the only really bad part was the late missed free throws.  Besides that, he was facing the top interior defense in the NBA and held his own admirably, drawing enough attention to let others play well.

 

  • And yes, the Bulls defense was incredible.  Omer Asik is damn near as good as Noah defensively and Taj Gibson isn’t far behind.  If any team can cover for Boozer, this is it.  And Boozer, meanwhile, gets to be effective on the glass.

 

  • Kyle Korver’s shot seems to have deserted him, which makes him no longer an NBA rotation player.  Luckily, with Korver bad and Hamilton in foul trouble, Ronnie Brewer played excellent basketball.  He was overmatched by Kobe, but nearly everyone is, and he competed on defense while managing to hold his own offensively.  He’ll be an important cog all year with Bogans gone.

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