Monday, December 5, 2022
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Preview: Chicago Bulls (9-4) at Los Angeles Lakers (8-6)

The Los Angeles Lakers opened with a home-heavy slate but haven’t taken advantage of the gift from the schedule makers.

Los Angeles finishes a season-opening stretch of 12 of 15 at home when it faces the Chicago Bulls on Monday night.

The Lakers (8-6) have inched above .500 by winning three of their last four games.

The first two wins were both decided in overtime against the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat. Then Los Angeles was beaten resoundingly by the Minnesota Timberwolves 107-83 before recovering to post a 114-106 triumph over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday afternoon.

That left the Lakers with a 7-4 home mark. Los Angeles resides in seventh place in the West despite the favorable docket.

Of course, not having LeBron James is an issue. James (abdominal strain) will miss his seventh straight game on Monday.

“One day at a time, that’s all I can tell you,” point guard Russell Westbrook said when asked if the Lakers are close to getting into gear while waiting on James. “We hope so, but we’ll take it one day at a time and slowly get guys back and get it turned around.”

Big man Anthony Davis plays the lead role with James sidelined and was superb on Sunday when he had 34 points and 15 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season.

“I wanted to come out and dominate the game and do whatever I could to get the team going,” Davis said afterward. “That’s the type of energy you need from our bench, our star players, our role players.”

Los Angeles had guard Talen Horton-Tucker (thumb) available for the first time this season and he scored 17 points against San Antonio in 27 minutes.

“He was great,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Felt confident in starting him. You never know what to expect, but he looked really good. He puts a lot of pressure on the rim, which just helps everything for us offensively.”

The Bulls are aiming to halt an eight-game losing streak against Los Angeles. Chicago last prevailed in the series when it posted an 118-110 road win on Nov. 20, 2016.

The Bulls (9-4) beat the host Los Angeles Clippers 100-90 on Sunday night and are 1-1 on a five-game road trip that began with a 119-93 setback against the Golden State Warriors on Friday.

Chicago opened up a 17-point lead in the first half against the hot Clippers during an impressive victory. DeMar DeRozan scored 35 points on 12-of-16 shooting and Zach LaVine made six 3-pointers while scoring 29 points.

The 30-point outing was the fourth of the season for DeRozan, a Los Angeles-area native who is in his first season with the Bulls.

“It’s always fun to come home and play, especially against good teams,” DeRozan said. “But I couldn’t be more happier than being in Chicago, honestly. It has worked out 1,000 percent perfect.”

The Bulls also will receive a jolt on Monday as guard Coby White is slated to play for the first time after offseason shoulder surgery.

White, 21, made 296 3-pointers in 134 games over his first two seasons. He averaged 13.2 points as a rookie in 2019-20 and 15.1 last season.

White started 54 games last season but will make his season debut off the bench, according to Chicago coach Billy Donovan.

“I do think with our second unit, he can provide some shooting for that group,” Donovan said of White. “It’s probably going to take him a little bit of time to get into a rhythm considering he’s been out for so long. He missed the whole training camp, the whole summer.

“He hasn’t really played necessarily other than a few occasions of 5-on-5. We’re just going to have to see as it goes.”

The Bulls will be without All-Star center Nikola Vucevic for the third straight game. He will miss the entire road trip due to a positive COVID-19 test.

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Ty Gaston