Lakers remind Chicago Bulls it's a long way to the top

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis dunks as Chicago Bulls guard Coby White watches during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021.

    Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis dunks as Chicago Bulls guard Coby White watches during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021.

 
 
Updated 1/24/2021 7:26 PM

The condensed NBA schedule is making it tough for the Bulls to get good feeling for where they stand.

They took the defending champion Lakers to the wire on Feb. 8 in Los Angeles when Anthony Davis did not play. With Davis in the lineup and the Bulls playing the second leg of back-to-back games, they fell behind the Lakers by 30 points at halftime Saturday at the United Center, while Davis erupted for 37 points.

 

"I was really disappointed in the first half," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said after the game. "I didn't think we played to our identity in that first half. We penetrated and charged too much. We didn't find open people when they were there.

"They were coming in and really protecting the paint. We had some turnovers, gave up some offensive rebounds. The first half, it wasn't who we've been."

What Donovan is hoping to see is more of how the Bulls played in Charlotte on Friday -- using ball movement and spacing to create good looks at the basket. They eclipsed 30 assists for the fourth time this season.

There's no denying the Bulls have taken advantage of some short-handed opponents. They beat Dallas once without Luka Doncic or Kristaps Porzingis, then won again when the Mavericks had those two guys and were missing just about everyone else.

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The Bulls are scheduled to host Boston on Monday. The Celtics will be playing the second leg of back-to-back games, while leading scorer Jayson Tatum, after missing eight games due to health and safety protocols, could be cleared to play against the Bulls.

After Saturday's game, Zach LaVine was asked if there were any lessons the Bulls could pick up from the defending champs, anything the Lakers do well that the Bulls need to figure out, besides having two of the greatest of all time on the court.

"A lot of it comes with experience," he said. "They've got a lot of high IQ guys on their team. They're always positive, they're pushing each other. But I don't think you can try and do what they do. There's only certain players that can do that. We've got to be the best versions of ourselves."

Rookie Patrick Williams got his second chance to match up against LeBron James. With the offensive focus on Davis, James didn't have a big game. Williams scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half, when the Bulls trimmed the 30-point halftime deficit to 11 by the final buzzer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"(I learned) just how smart he is," Williams said of James. "When he was off the ball he was calling out our plays, telling guys where to be, what was coming next. You could tell that he watches a lot of film."

Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. missed the last two games with a thigh bruise. His status for the Boston game had yet to be determined on Sunday afternoon.

Bulls-Grizzlies canceled:

The NBA canceled the Bulls at Memphis game scheduled for Wednesday. The explanation given was "due to contact tracing within the Grizzlies and the length of time preceding the game during which Memphis will be unable to practice." It is the fifth straight Grizzlies game canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

This is the second cancellation for the Bulls this season, joining the Jan. 12 home game against Boston. The NBA is planning to make up games during the second half of the season.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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