Montrezl Harrell floater vs Chicago

Lakers at Bulls: Three Things to Know (1/23/21)

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

The Lakers (12-4) continue their 7-game road trip with a contest at Chicago (7-8), a rematch of the Jan. 8 game that LAL won 117-115, at 6:00 p.m. on Spectrum SportsNet.

Below are three things to know about the matchup:

There were two consistent outside questions about the Lakers last regular season: did they have enough secondary playmaking, and could they hit enough perimeter shots? Of course, they proved to have plenty of both as displayed throughout the postseason, but the shooting question came as they shot 34.9% from 3 in the regular season (23rd in the NBA), and 35.4% in the playoffs (12th).

Well … there’s no such concern this season. LAL have come out on fire, hitting 40.0% from 3 (3rd in the NBA) on 12.9 makes per game (15th). They boast the 4th most efficient offense in the league, and have won games where they don’t have their best defensive effort as a result, such as Thursday’s 113-106 win at Milwaukee. Against the Bucks, they drilled 19 of 37 3’s, led by 6 of 10 from LeBron James and 7 of 10 from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

“Just going from last year, playing with AD and ‘Bron, and then starting this year I already know when they got the ball in the post or on the wing, pick and rolls, I know where to find my spots,” said KCP. “Just finding that open spot so they can be able to see me if they need to pass it out.”

“We did a good job of seeing the backside when we drew three, four, five defenders to the paint,” said Frank Vogel, who is constantly encouraging his players to get into the opponent’s paint before kicking it out. “We have a ton of shooters on this team, and if we make the extra pass, we have a chance to get hot like we did (at Milwaukee).”

“Touching that paint,” added KCP. “Every time we touch that paint things open up for us for our kick out 3’s. And when we offensive rebound, it’s a big thing Frank always preaches, it’s called ‘Korvers,’ we kick it out for threes, that’s when they’re mostly open.”

For the season, Caldwell-Pope is now 3rd in the NBA at 56.9% from 3, which trails only Seth Curry (59.6%) and teammate Alex Caruso, who’s also scorching hot, shooting 57.1 percent.

The transition game of the Lakers remains deadly … but they just haven’t been using it much of late. They lost the fastbreak battle against Milwaukee 24-9. In their previous game against Golden State, it was 9-4 Warriors. They had a 12-10 edge over New Orleans, but lost it 15-9 vs. OKC. It hasn’t been since Houston (Jan. 10 and 12) that they’ve really got out on the break, going 17-10 and 32-7 in those two wins.

And yet, they won all of those games with the exception of GSW, where they blew a 14-point fourth quarter lead in a Murphy’s Law game. So, clearly, they don’t need to run to get wins on many nights. But it’s an area upon which to keep an eye as the season continues.

They’ve fallen to 10th on the season with their 14.3 average. Chicago ranks 24th at 11.1.

Zach LaVine was terrific against the Lakers at Staples Center on Jan. 8, scoring 38 points on 14 of 22 FG’s (63.6%) with four 3’s, plus six assists. For the month of January, he’s averaging 29.1 points on 53.8% FG’s, and is sixth in the NBA in scoring overall. He’s topped the 30-point mark in five of seven games, and the Bulls have won three straight (CHA, HOU, DAL).

The Lakers will likely start with KCP on LaVine, and use Wesley Matthews and Alex Caruso off the bench. LaVine has the lift on his jumper to shoot over the top of each of those guards, and has also been getting to the basket thanks to an explosive first step. Of course, the Lakers always have LeBron or AD to slow big wings in crunch time, which Vogel hasn’t been shy of going to when needed.


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