The complete and utter failure known as the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers has taken a twist in recent weeks.
With new coach Mike D'Antoni settling in and newcomers Steve Nash and Dwight Howard getting healthier, the Lakers have gone 15-6 since Jan. 25 and are just a half-game behind Utah for eighth place in the West. The Bulls take on the Lakers Sunday afternoon at Staples Center.
"I think health is the big thing," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Dwight Howard has been a dominant player in this league for a long time. You have back surgery, it's going to take you a little bit of time. You can see he has gotten a lot healthier."
Kobe Bryant, meanwhile, has been on fire, averaging 36.8 points and 7.5 assists in his last four games.
"To still be playing at the level he's playing at, it's incredible, really," Thibodeau said. "He's doing everything. He's a great leader because of what he does when he's on the floor. You play with that type of intensity and that type of will, he's moved that team in the right direction."
Marco the late-game hero:
Marco Belinelli's clutch rating must be going through the roof after knocking down his third game-winning shot in the past two months.
Belinelli drained a corner 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds left for the winning points in the 89-88 victory over Utah on Friday.
On Jan. 18 in Boston, he tossed in a short jumper while falling backward with 3.1 seconds left in overtime. Then against Detroit on Jan. 23, he finished a driving bank and 3-point play with 7.5 seconds on the clock.
Of course, it helps that Belinelli was the beneficiary of some great plays by his teammates. On Friday, Jimmy Butler won a battle for an offensive rebound and found Belinelli open in the corner. The game-winner against the Pistons came off Joakim Noah's miracle save.
With 22 points against the Jazz, Belinelli also has three straight 20-point games for the first time in his NBA career,
"We expected him to play well when we signed him," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I like the way he's approached things here. He's a serious-minded player, has a great approach to the game."
Injury list unchanged:
Nothing figures to change about the Bulls' injury status Sunday against the Lakers. Coach Tom Thibodeau refused to rule out Kirk Hinrich (sore right foot) or Taj Gibson (sprained left knee), but neither seems likely to play.
After Friday's game against Utah, Hinrich still was wearing a walking boot, while Gibson walked out of the United Center without a brace on his knee. Richard Hamilton (sore lower back) did not make the trip.
And Derrick Rose, of course, will play when he's ready. Everyone just has to be patient.