Parker returns to rotation as Bulls lose to Lakers

By Mike McGraw

The biggest news before the Bulls battled the Los Angeles Lakers late Tuesday night was, of course, the continued absence of LeBron James due to a groin injury.

Bulls coach Jim Boylen delivered some interesting news before the game, saying that Jabari Parker would return to the playing rotation. Parker, signed as a free agent to a $20-million contract in the summer, was banished to the bench beginning with the Dec. 13 game in Mexico City against Orlando.

Parker actually played four minutes that night in Mexico. Since then, the South Side native has made just two appearances in the last 14 games.

Parker scored a team-high 18 points in 14 minutes, including a couple of highlight dunks, but the Bulls extended their losing streak to a season-long eight in a row by losing to the Lakers 107-100 at the Staples Center.

Both teams were ice cold from long range at the start of this one, going a combined 4-for-29 in the first half. Lonzo Ball (19 points) finally hit two in a row to give the Lakers a 56-48 lead midway through the third quarter.

The Lakers opened the game's first double-digit lead by scoring the opening basket of the fourth quarter. The Bulls hung around for a while and had a chance to get within 2, but Lakers backup guard Svi Mykhailiuk drained a couple of 3s to put the Bulls on the ropes.

A group of reserves cut the Bulls' deficit from 18 to 5 in the final minutes. It was too late to change the outcome, but it got the fans involved, as they get 2 free tacos when the Lakers hold the opponent below 100 points. Shaq Harrison got the Bulls to100 by hitting 2 of 3 free throws with 1.3 seconds left.

The Bulls (10-34) finished the night 9-for-30 from 3-point range, despite getting plenty of open looks. Lauri Markkanen went 3 of 8 from long range and scored 17 points. Zach LaVine had a quiet night with 10.

Kris Dunn got a technical foul less than three minutes into the game for slamming the ball on the floor in frustration after losing control of the ball, which resulted in a double-dribble violation.

Boylen suggested Parker has been giving a better effort in practice and earned his spot in the rotation. When Boylen became head coach on Dec. 3, he wanted to emphasize defense and didn't think he could give anyone a pass, especially Parker.

The first subs of Tuesday's game were Bobby Portis and Shaq Harrison. Portis missed the Utah game due to an elbow injury, which he blamed on Golden State's Kevin Durant.

At Monday's practice in Los Angeles, Boylen said Robin Lopez may see fewer minutes and he didn't play against the Lakers. Lopez figures to either be traded before the Feb. 7 deadline, or released shortly after so he can join a contending team.

The Bulls would be glad to trade both Lopez and Parker, but that will be tough to pull off unless the Bulls are willing to take unwanted contracts in return. As of now, it appears the Bulls don't want to do that.

The Lakers were 3-7 while James has been out and they dropped a half-game behind Utah for the final playoff spot in the West. Former Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo has also been sidelined due to hand surgery.

On Sunday, Cleveland snapped a 12-game losing streak against the Lakers. Coach Luke Walton shuffled a couple spots in his starting lineup, using Tyson Chandler at center instead of JaVale McGee and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at shooting guard over Josh Hart.

Before the game, Boylen was asked about Markkanen's shooting slump. The second-year forward from Finland was 1-for-13 from 3-point range so far on the road trip.

"To me, he's just got to keep taking them," Boylen told reporters at the Staples Center. "If he takes a contested one once in a while, I'm OK with it. If not, set up his drive. I think he's driven the ball very well. He had four plays in the last game where hew made shots off the bounce, which I like. His 3-ball will go down, I'm not concerned about it. I'm not going to harp on it with him. I'm not going to spend a whole bunch of time talking to him about it. It will come back around."

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