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Chicago 88, L.A. Lakers 87: Bulls erase a six-point deficit in the final minute to steal it

Dec 25, 2011, 9:25 PM EDT

Kobe Bryant, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Ronnie Brewer, Taj Gibson AP

The Lakers surprised many with their play for most of Christmas Day, hanging with the Bulls without suspended center Andrew Bynum and integrating a lot of new pieces into a new head coach’s system.

L.A. erased a seven-point halftime deficit quickly, built its lead to as many as 11 late in the fourth quarter, and led by six with under a minute to play. But turnovers and poor free throw shooting down the stretch, along with some clutch play from the reigning MVP Derrick Rose, turned a winnable game into a one-point loss by the time the final buzzer had sounded. Here’s how it transpired.

First Quarter – CHI 22, LAL 20

The new-look Lakers, missing Andrew Bynum due to suspension and with Lamar Odom gone to Dallas, started Josh McRoberts and Devin Ebanks alongside Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Derek Fisher. The Bulls also had a new addition to their starting lineup in the form of Rip Hamilton, who got the privilege of checking Bryant. Hamilton didn’t even last the game’s first three minutes, however, and was sent to the bench after picking up two quick personal fouls, both of which came with him guarding Kobe.

Speaking of Bryant, plenty of attention will be paid to how he performs while playing with a torn wrist ligament on his shooting hand. He did have two turnovers early trying to dribble through traffic in the paint, but his first jumper from 20 feet out looked smooth.

Gasol got off to a strong start for L.A., and led all scorers in the period with eight points on 4-of-7 shooting. He seemed comfortable scoring against Chicago’s defenders, and will need to continue if the Lakers are to have a shot today.

Rip hamilton picked up two quick fouls trying to check Kobe, and was sent to the bench after less than three minutes of game time. Derrick Rose did absolutely nothing, going scoreless with just one field goal attempt and one assist in just over nine minutes of action.

Second Quarter – CHI 56, LAL 49

After the secondary players did the heavy lifting in the first quarter, the stars got involved in the second.

Kobe Bryant had eight points in the period, including a stretch where he scored on three straight Lakers possessions. Luol Deng made sure he wouldn’t do the same on the fourth, crowding Bryant near the sideline and forcing him into committing his fifth turnover of the game. Bryant has 14 points at the break.

Derrick Rose made a huge impact in the period, after being essentially nonexistent in the first. He scored 10 in the quarter, two of which came in highlight-reel fashion after using a behind-the-back dribble to escape Metta World Peace on the perimeter and then banking home a floater in the paint.

The teams played close throughout the half, but it ended disastrously for the Lakers. Chicago ended the period with six straight points from Deng, on a three-pointer followed by a layup and-1 at the rim which has the Bulls sitting with their biggest lead of the game at the half.

Chicago is getting balanced scoring with 10 each from Rose, Deng, and Boozer, and is converting its attempts at a high percentage. The Lakers will need to do a better job of challenging shots and limiting turnovers in the second half (L.A. has 10 for the game) if they want to close things up.

Third Quarter — LAL 69, CHI 68

The Lakers opened the period on a 10-3 run to tie it at 59, and the Bulls cooled off considerably from the field, shooting 21.7 percent while managing to score just 12 third-quarter points. Deng went 1-of-6 in the period, while Noah was 0-for-4. The one-point lead after three came courtesy of a wide open, two-handed jam from Josh McRoberts off of a pass from Steve Blake.

Fourth Quarter — CHI 88, LAL 87

It really shouldn’t have come to this for the Lakers. L.A. led by 11 points with 3:44 to play, and after the Bulls cut it to five two possessions later, Bryant found Blake in the corner for a three-pointer that pushed the lead back to eight with 2:33 to go. That should have done it, but credit the Bulls for attacking defensively to force turnovers, and going to the basket and creating contact to get to the line to get easy points.

And for making free throws.

Deng made five straight free throws down the stretch, while Gasol and McRoberts each missed a pair. Had they converted, the game might not have been lost. The same can be said of Kobe’s last couple of touches.

After Bryant hit a spinning, fadeaway jumper from the baseline that pushed the Laker lead back to six with under a minute to play — a shot that felt like classic Kobe, and one that again, should have helped put this game away — he found himself with the ball in his hands and his team up a point, with 20 seconds to play.

The shot clock was off. The Bulls would need to foul or get a steal to regain possession, and Bryant helped them achieve the latter. He was trapped by two Bulls up top, and decided to try a jump pass to Gasol, who didn’t have his defender sealed and was unable to get to the errant pass. Deng got the steal, the Bulls put the ball in Rose’s hands, and he went to his right and converted a floater in the lane that turned out to be the game-winning shot.

Bryant had one final chance, and the Lakers ran an iso for him to try to win the game, But he drove right to the baseline, and the Bulls rotated perfectly defensively, and had three defenders all skying to prevent Bryant’s heroics. Deng got a piece of the shot and the game was over.

  1. cosanostra71 - Dec 25, 2011 at 9:40 PM

    These are the kind of games you have to win if you are to win a championship. Emotional, hard fought close defensive battles in a nationally televised atmosphere. These are also the games the Lakers have won the past few years. I hope that Mitch isn’t satisfied to sit on this roster, particularly the bench.

    • thatboi901 - Dec 25, 2011 at 9:58 PM

      I wouldn’t call the first game of a short offseason a must win. If this was a game mid season or after may be all whole different story. Both teams looked pretty bad offensively at time. Was slightly surprised by the Lakers performance till the last minute. By the time mid season comes both team would look completely different from what we saw today.

      • chargerdillon - Dec 26, 2011 at 12:40 AM

        Im honestly shocked it was a game. The Lakers being a much older team I really thought was going to get killed by a much younger and faster Bulls teams.

        The fact the Lakers were in it up until the last minute bodes very well for the Lakers this year. They had 2 starters on the court who have never been there before and played pretty darn well, and the Lakers were also missing their defensive anchor.

        The fact the Bulls let this be a game with what the Lakers have and are lacking at the same time makes me wonder if we wont see a major dip in performance all over the league.

        If this is what the Bulls intend to play like, the Heat better start working on the design for their championship ring. Not the fourth ring, not the fith ring, THE FIRST RING.

        Heat look SCARY REALLY FREAKIN SCARY, everybody else looks decent.

  2. cosanostra71 - Dec 25, 2011 at 10:23 PM

    Of course it’s not a must win, that’s why I didn’t call it a must win. I said these are the types of games championship teams win.

  3. Gordon - Dec 25, 2011 at 11:03 PM

    The Bulls played pretty damn good defense. Their problem was missing wide open shots, layups & put backs.

    If the Bulls shot just slightly better, I think they would have won fairly easily.

    The Lakers gave up open shots & offensive rebounds. The Bulls just missed them too often.

  4. cosanostra71 - Dec 25, 2011 at 11:45 PM

    And I realize looking at that comment it looks somewhat rude. I apologize, it was meant to be a clarification of my earlier comment, not a retort to what you said

  5. omniusprime - Dec 26, 2011 at 8:48 AM

    What can Brown do for the Lakers? Just Lose Baby! Where was his vaunted defense at the final minute? For that matter where was the offense at that final minute? Too bad Brown didn’t focus on offense more as all the Lakers needed to do was score to win going down the stretch. Good thing I decided to take a nap instead of watch the game, I can erase the recording as it won’t be worth watching. I’m sure Brown way find a way to make the Lakers lose to the lowly Kings today and I won’t bother to watch.

    After over 40 years of being a faithful Laker fan I hate to say it but I do not like this year’s Laker squad. Thanks David Stern for screwing up the Lakers and the whole league. I won’t be watching NBA this season and probably for many years to come.

  6. jimeejohnson - Dec 26, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    According to many of the Lakers and Celtics faithful, these two teams lose big games because:

    1) David Stern predetermined the outcome
    2) Refs rigged the game in accordance with Stern
    3) Sun was in their teams’ eyes
    4) Wee-wee, wee-wee, WEE-WEE

    RIGGED: sore loser fans reaction to losing big games

    • chargerdillon - Dec 26, 2011 at 1:30 PM

      The Mavericks sweeping the Lakers in the playoffs, that’s big

      The Heat taking out the best-record-Bulls in the playoffs, that’s big

      The Bulls beating the Lakers on opening day, 1 game
      The Knicks beating the Celtics on opening day, 1 game

      Difference between Lakers and Celtics and Bulls and Knicks. The Lakers and Celtics have actually been successful franchises compared to the Bulls and Knicks.

      For somebody talking crap on the 2 most successful franchises, it makes me wonder 1. why you’re so bitter and 2. which lesser team do you root for that’s made you so jealous and bitter

  7. mondzy805 - Dec 26, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    People need to start Respecting these Bulls. D Rose is only going to get better. My Bulls are for real.

    • chargerdillon - Dec 26, 2011 at 1:31 PM

      Heat > Bulls

      Here’s your tissue buddy

  8. dirtybird2020 - Dec 26, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    Its the first game! Everyones gonna look like crap, the more players in a rotation the longer its gonna take to get up to par! Heat looked good due to a crappy mavericks who have a ton of new players who dont know how to play together yet( not saying they can beat the heat), as the heat have 3 players in their lineup that are allstars that know hiw to play, wait 2-3 weeks to let teams set in

  9. asublimeday - Dec 26, 2011 at 2:29 PM

    Bulls haters be damned.

  10. asublimeday - Dec 26, 2011 at 2:47 PM

    Hahahaha chargerdillon

    The Bulls, who had the greatest player ever, the best team ever, and the most dominant team of an entire decade, haven’t had success?

    Way to be from San Diego and be a heat fan. I’m sure you’re not fair-weather at all. Be sure to stop by the boards when the heat blow it again.

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