Dwight Howard
(Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images)

Defense shuts down Bulls in 4th quarter comeback

by Rodrigo Azurmendi
Staff Writer

The best defense in the NBA struck again.

Entering the fourth quarter down by 13 points on a night marred by turnovers and low energy, the Lakers turned to their bread and butter – reeling off a 29-4 run to achieve their sixth consecutive win.

With this team, it seems like it’s always a matter of time. Chicago clearly outworked L.A. through the first 36 minutes of play, as another great performance from LeBron James wasn’t proving to be enough to make up for the deficit on the boards, some poor outside shooting, and the damage caused by not being able to take care of the ball.

However, what Frank Vogel has in spades are competitors. A lineup anchored by Dwight Howard on defense and Kyle Kuzma on offense took the floor in the fourth, and suddenly everything clicked.

The third-year forward from Utah quickly uncorked a personal 5-0 run that included his first three pointer of the night, and wound up scoring 11 of his 15 in the period. By the time he sat down, the Lakers had taken the lead for good.

“Kuz is going to be a great piece for our team, and he showed tonight why, offensively and defensively,” James said.

He may still be showing a certain amount of rust after a long layoff, but his combination of precise cuts to the basket, mid-range jumpers and fancy floaters reminded everyone of the dangerous weapon the Lakers have coming off the bench:

The bench mob, also featuring Jared Dudley and Quinn Cook – and eventually buttressed by James and Anthony Davis – forced seven turnovers in the fourth quarter and turned them into 10 points.

“They made up for their first-half performance,” James joked. “They were great.”

The Bulls managed a pair of makes from beyond the arc in the final 90 seconds with the game out of reach, embellishing what was otherwise a nightmarish run of futility and confusion against a defense that came into the game allowing the fewest points per 100 possessions.

Howard fueled this resurgence with a renewed sense of purpose on the boards, and his dominance on the back line turned into downright intimidation of a young Bulls squad. Dwight Island is again becoming a real location in the NBA map:

Some timely shooting from Cook pretty much took care of the rest, with LeBron coming back to put the finishing touches and AD having his most effective run to put the game away.

This buzzsaw performance in the fourth allowed the Lakers to sweep the road trip after wins in Dallas and San Antonio – while also marking the first time L.A. has won 6 in a row in a season since 2010-2011.

On top of that, King James became the first Laker to notch back-to-back-to-back triple-doubles since Magic Johnson in 1987. The Akron native led the way with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, and he was a +17 in just over 35 minutes.

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