Beverley makes sure Lakers, LeBron come up short in return to L.A.

The Bulls got a surprise in the 24 hours before Sunday's game as LeBron James went from out with a right foot injury to making his return after a 13-game absence. James came off the bench for just the second time in 1,414 career games.

So there was no shortage of storylines for this one. From LeBron to Troy Brown Jr.'s revenge game to Patrick Beverley returning to face a Lakers team he left in February.

Beverley had the last laugh this time. The Bulls built 20-point leads in the second, third and fourth quarters before finishing with a 118-108 victory in Los Angeles, their sixth straight road win.

The Lakers got within eight in the final two minutes, but Beverley sealed the outcome by hitting a hook shot in the lane over James, then giving him an exaggerated "too small" gesture. These teams will meet again Wednesday at the United Center.

"I do it to everybody," Beverley told reporters after the game. "It's just having fun, getting lost in the game. We're not construction workers, we're not guys that have to get up a 4 o'clock in the morning. We're professional basketball players. It's all about having fun and that's what I tried to do tonight."

Beverley ran over to the Lakers bench to give James a hug before tip-off. When he joined the Bulls, though, Beverley said on his podcast his goal was to knock the Lakers out of the playoffs, knowing there were two meetings on the schedule.

The Bulls improved to 10-5 since Beverley joined the team and coach Billy Donovan talked about how the Chicago native has helped the Bulls with his voice.

"We at times get too introverted," Donovan said. "You've got to communicate, and he is in there talking about, 'No second shots, put a body (on someone).' He's talking like that and think when Alex (Caruso) is in there as well, there's more of that where he's forcing that dialogue. It's at 10 all the time with him.

"I think it galvanizes our team and it helps our group. I don't want to say it's all him. We can get too quiet, where there needs to be more collective communication going on."

Zach LaVine had another big game, scoring 32 points on 13-of-19 shooting. The Bulls got big contributions from the bench, with Coby White piling up 13 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. The Bulls finished with 48 bench points and 32 assists.

James finished with 19 points and 8 rebounds, and as usual, made an impact with fouls drawn. One foul created by James led to the ejection of Bulls center Nikola Vucevic with 1:02 left in the second quarter.

The play began when James drove down the lane, Vucevic appeared to simultaneously block James' shot and also hit him in the face. James has a history of drawing fouls by pretending to get poked in the eye, but this time it seemed legit.

When he heard the whistle, Vucevic walked toward referee Sean Corbin with his arms in the air, complaining about the call.

As he got the first technical, Vucevic walked over to the Bulls bench and a trainer adjusted a wrap on his thumb. But he continued to complain and as DeMar DeRozan said something to try to calm him down, Vucevic received technical No. 2 from referee Tony Brothers.

"Obviously it was a bad decision by me to react the way I did," Vucevic said after the game. "The game, as important as it is for us, I've got to be better, control my emotions a little better in the moment. My mistake, I'm just glad our team came through. It makes me feel less bad about myself.

"I obviously overreacted for sure. I deserved the first one 100%. The second one, I should have done better, just shut my mouth and turned around and focused on the game and I didn't do that."

Andre Drummond (12 points, 8 rebounds) and Derrick Jones Jr. (8 points) picked up the slack for Vucevic and helped keep Anthony Davis (15 points, 9 rebounds) under control. Brown, who spent last season with the Bulls, scored 18 points.

Former Laker Caruso made his presence felt, drawing three charges in the game - two against James and one against Davis.

The Bulls will return to the same building Monday to take on the Los Angeles Clippers.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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Bulls forward Derrick Jones Jr. (5) reacts after making a 3-point basket past Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) during the second half Sunday, March 26, 2023, in Los Angeles. Associated Press
Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan, right, celebrates after his 3-point basket with guard Ayo Dosunmu during the second half of a game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Sunday. Associated Press
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