Lakers, James make 36-point turnaround in win over Bulls
The Lakers were the NBA's laughingstock before this one tipped off, having lost five in a row to essentially drop out of playoff contention.
During the final 17 minutes at the United Center on Tuesday, the Lakers took that stench and wiped it on the Bulls, smearing it onto their jerseys like a cloth napkin in a barbecue restaurant.
The Lakers rallied from 20 points down, went on a 24-3 run mostly while LeBron James was on the bench and rolled past the Bulls 123-107.
It was one of those cases where the first quarter might have been too easy. The Bulls shot 58 percent and cruised to a 34-16 lead. But the Lakers responded by scoring 39 points in the second quarter and 43 in the third.
"I was disappointed in the 39-point second quarter," Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. "I didn't like our edge and our toughness. I thought we really played well in that first quarter. I thought we were ready to play. I thought we embraced the moment. But I didn't like our second quarter and I didn't like our third quarter."
James finished with 36 points and 10 rebounds, adding to his long list of dominant performances in Chicago. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 24 points, while Kyle Kuzma returned from two games off with an ankle injury to score 21.
James tacked on a couple of nice highlights in the fourth quarter, slamming home a long outlet pass from Kuzma after it bounced on the floor. Then Josh Hart tossed James an alley-oop off the backboard to complete a 3-on-0 Lakers fast break.
That last alley-oop was essentially the final straw. The Bulls had gotten an offensive rebound and had numbers as Otto Porter Jr. headed to the basket. But James was back on defense and he deftly stole Porter's attempt to dish it off and ignited the break. The Lakers finished with a 28-10 edge in fast-break points.
"We don't have enough firepower right now," Boylen said. "We need to maintain the lead with good basketball."
Bulls leading scorer Zach LaVine missed his second straight game with a sore right knee. Center Robin Lopez ended up leading the Bulls in scoring with 20 points, while Porter added 19. Kris Dunn finished with 18 points, 9 assists and 7 turnovers.
Lauri Markkanen's offensive slump continued, though. He went 0-for-8 from 3-point range, 4-for-17 overall from the field and scored 11 points. After going on a tear for about a month, Markkanen has struggled in the last six games.
"I don't know. I've been doing the same stuff, so I know it will turn around," Markkanen said. "I acknowledge that I'm not playing like I was in February, but keep working the way I do every day. Because everything feels the same. It's just not going in right now."
Wayne Selden Jr. got ejected in the third quarter for two quick technical fouls. The second one happened while he was inbounding the ball after the first technical free throw.
"I don't know (what happened). I just told him we're not going to do that here," Boylen said. "I told Wayne he's not going to get technicals here. I'll get the technicals and he's not going to get them and he was great about it."
The Bulls (19-50) were officially eliminated from the playoffs with this loss. But there was never a day this season when anyone expected the Bulls to be in playoff contention, so that hardly qualifies as news. At least there are only 13 games left to play.