GAMEDAY LINKS: Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
Box Score Chicago Bulls 16 24 21 20 81
Play by Play Los Angeles Lakers 20 24 29 17 90




Bulls vs. Lakers
Clark Sticks With It
Bryant to Howard
Bulls vs. Lakers: First Half

Howard leads Lakers over Bulls 90-81

By JOE HAAKENSON


Posted Mar 10 2013 8:13PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) Kobe Bryant was asked what it felt like to be a "playoff team," his Lakers having just moved into the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference after a 90-81 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Sunday.

Bryant, who had 19 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, let out a less-than-enthusiastic "yippee."

The win improved the Lakers to 33-31, the first time they've been two games over .500 all season. They are one-half game ahead of Utah for the final playoff spot. And while the Lakers may feel a sense of accomplishment in reaching playoff position after such a poor start to the season, Bryant is quick to note there is plenty still left to do.

"We're very focused," Bryant said. "We know what we have to do and what lies ahead. Everybody's locked in."

That would include Lakers center Dwight Howard, who is playing more like the player the Lakers hoped they were getting when he was acquired in a trade with Orlando. Howard scored 16 points on 8 of 14 shooting, blocked four shots and grabbed 21 rebounds, the fourth time this season he's had 20 or more rebounds.

"I think I am getting a little bit better," said Howard, who was 0 for 5 from the free throw line.

"I'm just going to keep working on my conditioning, get my timing back and just keep going hard."

The Lakers, who have won eight of 10 since the All-Star break, led by four points at halftime.

But point guard Steve Nash keyed a 21-7 third-quarter spurt that put the Lakers up by as many as 18 points. Nash scored 10 of his 16 points in the third quarter.

"We have to try to climb higher," Nash said. "This team is far from a finished product, so we have to improve every night. Get tighter on both ends of the floor. The more we play together the better we should be and the more we should learn how to play together.

"What is the point of getting to the playoffs if you hold tight and this is a finished product? We need to try to improve while we solidify a playoff spot and be a better team, and hopefully a tougher team to compete with in the playoffs."

The Lakers led almost throughout, only briefly falling behind by two points in the second quarter.

Metta World Peace (12 points), Earl Clark (11 points) and Jodie Meeks (10 points) all scored in double figures for the Lakers.

Nate Robinson led the Bulls with 19 points, Joakim Noah had 18 points and 17 rebounds and Carlos Boozer had 12 points and 10 rebounds for Chicago.

Bryant was scoreless in the first quarter and had just six points at halftime, but the Lakers maintained a lead behind Howard's play in the paint.

"I thought Howard in particular in the first half set the tone," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He just dominated the paint with shot-blocking, rebounding, physicality. That set the tone for the game and they dominated us on the boards from the start. Kobe came out as a playmaker so they played well."

The Lakers finished the third quarter with a 73-61 lead when Clark took a pass from Bryant and made a jumper at the buzzer. The Bulls got within eight points on a basket by Boozer with 8:02 left, but got no closer the rest of the way.

Bryant missed all three shots in the first quarter, going scoreless in the opening 12 minutes.

World Peace was cold as well, missing four open 3-pointers, but the Lakers held an early lead thanks to Howard's efforts down low. Howard was 3 of 3 from the field for six points and grabbed seven rebounds.

"Dwight is just feeling better," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "You can see it all over the place. His back is better, he's in rhythm, whatever it is he's a monster defensively."

Bryant finally got into the scoring column on a jumper in the lane with 7:15 left until halftime, then quickly hit another outside shot less than a minute later. But the Lakers couldn't shake the Bulls, who pulled to within 34-32 on a layup by Robinson, Howard picking up his third foul on the play.

Howard remained in the game but the Bulls briefly pulled ahead, going up 36-34 on a basket by Carlos Boozer.

The Lakers regained the lead shortly thereafter on a 3-pointer by Jodie Meeks, and led 44-40 at the half, but not without a little drama. After World Peace was called for a foul on an illegal screen, denying Bryant a chance to take the final shot of the half, Bryant and World Peace barked at each other as they made their way up the court. Nash got between the two to calm them down.

NOTES: Lakers forward Pau Gasol (foot injury; torn plantar fascia) remains on track to return before the end of the regular season. "Gasol is coming on," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "It's five weeks on Tuesday, and they said six to eight weeks, so hopefully that's the case. If there are no setbacks, he should be back." ... Bulls guard Derrick Rose, recovering from surgery on his left knee last May, is close to returning. But coach Tom Thibodeau said he can't look ahead to how the team will adjust with Rose, the 2011 NBA MVP, back on the floor. "We'll cross that bridge when we get there," Thibodeau said. "For us right now, the guys that are playing, they have to concentrate on their improvement and our next opponent. Derrick has to concentrate on his rehab."

Copyright 2012 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited






View More Photos


Points Bryant and Robinson (CHI), 19
Rebounds Howard, 21
Assists Bryant, 9
Steals Robinson (CHI), 4
Blocks Howard/World Peace, 4


POSTGAME QUOTES



Mike D'Antoni:

On if he feels they’re ahead of schedule in their playoff push:
“Probably, just because I think the other teams lost some games they normally wouldn’t lose, so that put us back in it. I think we’re doing what we’re supposed to do; I don’t think we’ve done any more than what we’re supposed to do. We’ve beat the teams that we should and we still have 18 or 19 games to go. We have to keep doing that, and hope that the other teams falter every once in a while.”

On the Lakers’ balance tonight
“I think they’re getting a feel for each other and how to finish games out; and Dwight [Howard] is just feeling better. You can see it all over the place. His back is better, he’s in rhythm, whatever it is he’s a monster defensively.”

On the Lakers’ efficiency:
“The efficiency was pretty good; we just didn’t hit any threes. We didn’t hit any shots that I thought would get our margin up a little bit quicker. But, defensively I thought was good, especially the job Metta [World Peace] did on [Carlos] Boozer. He didn’t hit his shots, and I think he was a little worried about it, it seemed like, but he was so valuable with his work down inside with Boozer that shored up the defense. Each guy contributed in a way, and obviously Kobe [Bryant], and Dwight [Howard, and Steve [Nash], and those guys do what they do.”

On how much of Nash’s performance lately is due to Dwight Howard’s improving health:
“Health is definitely a big part. I think they’re getting comfortable, and when they feel good about each other, and feel good about what’s happening, and we get some wins it’s easier to play that way. They’ve always been great players, so they’re going to be great players, you just have to get them comfortable and feeling good and let them just go.”

On if the team is actually playing better:
“We are playing better; the record will show that. We are playing a lot better, and we’re playing the way we’re supposed to. Now do we have a long way to go? Yes we do. We have not beat Oklahoma City yet, for example, or the Clippers here. So, there is a ways to go, and we have to get better at what we’re doing. We have to get Pau [Gasol] back and get complete. Where we were, and where we are now is a lot better. Do we have a lot more room to grow? Yes we do. We have to keep going.”




Steve Nash:

On the game:
“I tried to be aggressive and get a little bit more involved. Sometimes I think with Kobe on the court I don’t get into it as much as I should and I have to help. I have to try to get the ball, be aggressive and look for my shot. And look to make plays, take a little bit of pressure off of him and the rest of the team.”

“What a nice change. From the first whistle we got up 8-2 or 8-4 and just a little thing like that gives us a little juice. Coming out early for an early game and starting the game the right way.”

“We have to try to climb higher. This team is far from a finished product, so we have to improve every night. Get tighter on both ends of the floor. The more we play together the better we should be and the more we should learn how to play together. You know I think what is the point of getting to the playoffs if you hold tight and this is a finished product. We need to try to improve while we solidify a playoff spot and be a better team and a tougher, hopefully, team to compete with in the playoffs. “




Dwight Howard:

On the game:
“We are playing a lot better. We are finally settling down and just playing basketball. We are trusting each other and trusting the system. And we are doing a good job of playing together.”

“That is the thing we have been talking about all year; you know it is all about timing. And what I tell those guys is just put pressure on the defense and as soon as you drive, my man has to make a decision if he is going to stay with me or stick to you. And they catch me at the rim a couple of times and guys like Noah are hesitant of coming to blocked shots.”

“I think I am getting a little bit better. I am just going to keep working on my conditioning. Get my timing back and just keep going hard.”

“We just have to keep getting better and I think we will. We want to win a championship. That is our goal and we are going to go out every night to put the effort into getting a championship.”




Kobe Bryant:

On Dwight Howard:
“He’s been fantastic defensively for us, crowding the lane, changing shots, and getting his hands on others.”

On the chemistry between him and Dwight Howard:
“It’s there, just kind of depends on the coverage and what we see. Tonight, I saw something that we could take advantage of, which was the back side action and that’s what we went too.”

On Coach Thibodeau
“All game. Every time I play him, he’s known me since I was 15 years old, he’s just not going to let me beat him by scoring, he’s just not. He doesn’t want that to happen so I have to find my guys. It’s tough going for them early in the game in terms of knocking down shots but, I have to stay with them and they made them down the stretch.”

On playing since the all-star break:
“Just playing much better. We’ve found a pretty good rhythm offensively and defensively. I think attitude wise, we are just trying to muscle through some things.”




Antawn Jamison:

On the rest of the season:
“I think the true character of this team is really coming out. Our back has been up against a wall. Instead of separating we have come together, put all of our egos aside and we are playing like a team that should have been playing throughout the whole season. So I think that first and foremost, the main reason of why we’ve been performing as of late is realizing that the sense of urgency really needs to be there in order for us to make it to the playoffs.”

On the game:
“We just wanted to play 48 minutes of consistent defense. Instead of being down 15-20 points in the first quarter or going into the second half we just wanted to play the way we’ve been playing toward the end of the games, to start the games, and throughout the whole game. I think by far this has probably been the most consistent defensive game we have played all season.”




Tom Thibodeau:

On if the Lakers were a more physical team today:
“I thought [Dwight] Howard in particular in the first half set the tone. He just dominated the paint with shot blocking, rebounding, physicality. That set the tone for the game and they dominated us on the boards from the start. Kobe came out as a playmaker so they played well. ”

On Metta World Peace and his defense on Carlos Boozer:
“That’s what he does. He’s got the ability to guard multiple people. He’s got great hands, you’ve got to protect the ball against him. Hard playing, they were very physical and played hard.”

On the Bulls low shooting percentage today:
“You’ve got to give them [Lakers] credit. They played good defense. They were into us. We’re not a great three-point shooting team, but if we’re taking the right ones off ball movement where it’s inside out and swung around to the weak side we can make those.”

On if the Bulls are on stretch offensively where it’s just difficult to score points:
“We have to play great defense. We have to rebound the ball. I thought the rebounding was a huge factor it ended up being 4 [less rebounds than the Lakers] but we were down big most of the game. Then offensively we got to keep the ball moving when we hold onto it and then we settle for shots we’re settling for the long two, that’s a tough shot.”

On playing without 60% of the team’s starters and the challenge of playing the Lakers:
“We got enough. We got to do the right things. You do the right things you’ll be in position to win, so we’ve got to improve. I think our level of intensity has to go up, especially on the road. The Lakers are playing very good basketball right now, they’re not going to beat themselves you’ve got to come in and play well. It’s got to be a well-balanced game where you’re high energy on offense and bodies are moving, and then defensively you’ve got to be tight together. They put a lot of pressure on you. [Dwight} Howard’s rolling to the rim, they’ve got a lot of shooting on the floor so it requires multiple efforts. If you take a shortcut you’re going to pay.”




Joakim Noah:

On playing against Lakers:
“I feel like we could have played better. I think were capable of better. Of course, you have to give credit where credit is due. They have a lot of great scorers and they definitely controlled the boards.”

On Bulls offense:
“Offensively, I think our ball movement wasn’t too bad, but our positioning, we were always in each other’s way. We have to find a way to spread the court a little bit more. I’m just disappointed because we’re not executing our offense very well.”




Nate Robinson:

On Bulls offense:
“We just missed some easy shots, some easy tidbits. It happens, but for us our main focus is defense. We have to play our Chicago defense. We’ve been lacking in that the past couple of games. We just need to find it and play.”

On if he is worried about how the season is going:
“No we’ll be alright. We just have to continue to play hard. Play out our funk and keep having fun. We have the best job in the world so no complaints about any of that. We have to continue to stay humble and cherish every game like it’s our last. If we just play hard we’ll be alright.”




Luol Deng:

On if he was surprised with Lakers defense:
“No, I will give them credit. They played well. Their defense was solid. They played well enough to win the game.”

On missing 40% of starters:
“We never make any excuses. We’re just being a team with the guys we have. We have enough to win.”

“We could play a lot better. We’ve played better before. Just on both ends of the floor we could do a lot better.”






BULLS-LAKERS PREVIEW

By TAYLOR BECHTOLD


Posted Mar 10 2013 12:18AM

With Kobe Bryant playing at a historic level, the Los Angeles Lakers are closing in on a playoff spot.

The Lakers will try to continue their recent surge on Sunday when they host the Chicago Bulls, who are still waiting on Derrick Rose to make his season debut.

After losing 10 of 12 in January, Los Angeles was a season-worst eight games below .500 and its playoff chances seemed remote. Instead, the Lakers (32-31) have won 15 of 21 after their 118-116 overtime victory over Toronto on Friday.

Now Los Angeles has an opportunity to move ahead of sinking Utah into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with its sixth straight home win.

The Lakers also appear to be catching the banged-up Bulls at an opportune time. Richard Hamilton (back) was not expected to make the trip, while Kirk Hinrich (foot) and Taj Gibson (sprained MCL) will be game-time decisions.

Despite reports that Rose's doctor has cleared him to play, coach Tom Thibodeau said on Friday that Rose is "not quite" ready to make his debut. The 2011 NBA MVP continues to practice without restrictions, but his return from a torn ACL in his left knee remains uncertain.

"He's been cleared to do everything there is," Thibodeau said. "Before he makes the final step, everyone has to get together and sign off. That hasn't happened yet. The most important part of this is that we have to trust Derrick, and I trust him."

Even if Rose remains out, Bryant should have plenty of motivation. The All-Star guard had just 16 points on 7-of-22 shooting in a 95-83 loss at Chicago on Jan. 21. After the game, Jimmy Butler - the Bulls' primary defender on Bryant - was referred to by the local media as "The Kobe Stopper" for his efforts.

Butler, however, may have his hands full this time. After finishing with 42 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds in a win at New Orleans on Wednesday, Bryant had 41, 12 and six against the Raptors.

He's the first player to record back-to-back games with at least 40 points, 12 assists and six boards since Michael Jordan pulled off the feat April 9-13, 1989.

"I know I have the energy and the determination (to keep this going)," Bryant said. "Anybody that I line up against on any given night, I don't think they're going to be able to out-will me."

Bryant ranks third in the NBA at 27.8 points per game, but has averaged just 21.0 on 41.8 percent shooting in his last six home games in this series.

Dwight Howard, though, could be more of a factor after totaling 44 points and 28 rebounds in his last two games. He had eight and nine, respectively, the first meeting.

The Lakers have averaged 109.0 points - 6.3 above their season average - while shooting 48.1 percent over their last nine contests.

They'll try to keep it going against a highly ranked Chicago defense that held them to 39.5 percent shooting and 3 for 17 from 3-point range in its January win.

Carlos Boozer and Marco Belinelli combined for 44 points as the short-handed Bulls (35-27) snapped a two-game skid with an 89-88 victory over Utah on Friday. Belinelli, who hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds left on Friday, has averaged 21.0 points and made 10 of 15 from beyond the arc in his last three games.

The Bulls have won three straight overall in this series.


Copyright 2012 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited
Probable Starters
Lakers
#15 World Peace SF #9 Deng
#6 Clark PF #5 Boozer
#12 Howard C #13 Noah
#24 Bryant SG #8 Belinelli
#10 Nash PG #2 Robinson



Lakers Kobe Bryant
(ulnar nerve contusion, right arm) is probable.
Pau Gasol
(strained plantar fascia, right foot) is out.
Jordan Hill
(torn labrum, left hip/herniated disc) is out.
Dwight Howard
(torn labrum, right shoulder) is probable.

Richard Hamilton
(lower back) is not with the team.
Derrick Rose
(left knee) is out.
Taj Gibson
(left knee) is day-to-day.
Kirk Hinrich
(right foot) is day-to-day.


GAME NOTES

SEASON & SERIES NOTES; CONNECTIONS
The Lakers trail the season series with Chicago 0-1 after losing their lone meeting with the Bulls last season on Chistmas/Opening Day. The two teams split the 2010- 11 season series (1-1) after the Lakers swept each of the previous three season series with Chicago (2-0). This will be the 142nd meeting between the two teams with the Lakers leading the all-time series 84-57. The Lakers are 7-3 against the Bulls in their last 10 overall games despite dropping each of the last three contests. In Chicago, the Lakers have gone 5-5 in their last 10 games at the United Center against the Bulls and have dropped two straight in the Windy City. At STAPLES Center, the Lakers are 10-3 all-time against the Bulls and 8-2 in their last 10 but had their 5-game home win streak snapped with the Christmas Day loss a season ago. In recent series history, on November 18, 2007, the Lakers defeated the Bulls by 28 points, surpassing the old series record of 27 established back on February 18, 1968. One year earlier, the Lakers held the Bulls to a series-low 72 points November 19, 2006 at STAPLES Center. In 28 career games (24 starts) against Chicago, Kobe Bryant is averaging 24.5 points with high games of 43 in Los Angeles (11/20/05) and 42 in Chicago (12/15/09). Additionally, forward Metta World Peace was drafted by the Bulls with the 16th overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft, playing 2 ½ seasons with Chicago and earning All-Rookie Second Team honors his rookie year. Bulls forward Taj Gibson (2006-09) played collegiately at the University of Southern California while Bulls forward Vladimir Radmanovic played three seasons with the Lakers (2006-09), averaging 7.1 points (.400 3FG%), 3.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists in19.5 minutes over 166 games. Chris Duhon and Bulls forward Carlos Boozer were teammates at Duke for two seasons (2000-01, 2001-02), helping the Blue Devils to the 2000-01 NCAA National Championship. Duhon and Bulls forward Luol Deng were teammates at Duke for the 2003-04 season before both entering the 2004 NBA Draft. Bulls forward Lou Amundson played two seasons (2008-10) alongside Steve Nash in Phoenix, posting his two best statistical NBA seasons with the Suns and Nash.


LAST REGULAR SEASON MEETING
Not taking their first lead of the game until Kobe Bryant converted a reverse layup in the final seconds of the third quarter, the Lakers struggled down the stretch as a 75-75 tie with 7:26 remaining in the fourth quickly gave way to a 20-8 Chicago run and ultimately led to a 95-83 loss to the Bulls at United Center. Steve Nash led the Lakers with 18 points and six assists. Bryant scored 16 points on a tough shooting night (7-22 FG) while Metta World Peace (12 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 blocks), Earl Clark (12 points, 8 rebounds) and Pau Gasol (15 points, 12 rebounds), who was responsible for all but two of the team’s bench points, rounded out the Lakers in double-figures. Kirk Hinrich led Chicago with 22 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Nazr Mohammed (15 points), Carlos Boozer (14 points), Richard Hamilton (13 points), Nate Robinson (11 points) and Jimmy Butler (10 points) all posted double-digit socring nights for the Bulls while Joakim Noah posted game-highs in rebounds (13) and blocks (6) in the Chicago victory. With the loss, the Lakers fell to 2-9 in the month of January and to 5-14 in road games this season.