Having accumulated 16 NBA world championship banners, including 11 in Los Angeles, the second most behind the Boston Celtics who have 17, the Lakers are one of the most recognized brands in the world.
Following last season’s ouster in the first-round of the playoffs, the Lakers are on pace to finish with their third worst record percentage-wise ever after Chicago escaped with a 92-86 win at Staples Center last Sunday.
It wasn’t easy for the Bulls who led 84-74 with 5:28 remaining in the fourth quarter as the Lakers responded with a 6-2 run before center Joakim Noah drained two free throws with 1:28 left to make it 88-80.
It became a four-point deficit after small forward Wesley Johnson (six points) dunked with 48.3 seconds left, but a steal by point guard D.J. Augustin (15 points), who was fouled added a pair of charity shots to make it 90-84 with 21.2 seconds remaining.
“That’s basketball,’’ said Noah, who had 20 points and 13 rebounds. “Jimmy [Butler] played well and Taj [Gibson] played well. They’re [the Lakers] well-coached and they play hard.”
It seems the Lakers, who came in with a two-game winning streak, have been short-handed the entire season and played without Kobe Bryant (inactive), Pau Gasol (strained right groin), Nick Young (left knee fracture and bone bruise), Jordan Farmar (sore hamstring), Jodie Meeks (sprained right knee) and Xavier Henry (inactive).
So why wouldn’t point guard Steve Nash (eight points), who turned 40 last Friday, and has missed the majority of the campaign, reinjure his left knee which he broke last season?
There was a bright spot for the Lakers (18-33) as reserve center Chris Kaman finished with a season-best 27 points and collected 10 rebounds.
“It’s been a frustrating season for me personally, and it’s been a frustrating season for the team,’’ said Kaman, a one-time Clippers All-Star. “We have a lot of guys on one-year contracts. Some games we’ll have two new guys in the lineup, and they get hurt and then we have two different guys in the lineup. There’s no rhythm in the offense.”
Chicago (25-25) jumped out to a 10-0 lead with 8:11 left on a hoop from Gibson, and pulled in front 32-19 on a three-pointer from shooting guard Butler (nine points) with 1:20 showing.
The Bulls led 34-23 after the first quarter as Gibson poured in 12 of his 18 points. “We were patient. My teammates looked for me,’’ said Gibson, a power forward who played at USC. “We try to be aggressive and we listen to the coaching staff.”
Point guard Kendall Marshall (13 points) nailed a three-pointer with 8:07 left in the second quarter as the Lakers came within 42-32, but the Bulls went into the locker room in front, 52-46.
Chicago opened a 63-50 advantage with 7:14 left in the third quarter and led 72-58 with 2:34 remaining as Marshall canned a trey just seconds earlier, and the Bulls took a 77-62 lead into the fourth quarter.
Marshall’s driving layup trimmed the cushion to 77-67 with 8:59 left, and the Bulls established an 84-74 lead with 5:28 left on the clock.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.