Thursday, January 29, 2015, 10.30pm ET
IF the Los Angeles Lakers were irrelevant before ageing superstar Kobe Bryant went down with a torn rotator cuff, they are now an afterthought for the rest of this NBA season.
The tank must be real for the Lakers, who will surely now look to lose as many games as possible in a bid to garner the highest draft pick possible and rebuild in 2015/16.
And they can work on that with a loss to the fourth best team in the Eastern Conference, the Chicago Bulls, who are fresh off defeating the NBA leading Golden State Warriors on a Derrick Rose buzzer beater on their home floor.
And it will be a familiar face who will most likely be putting the horribly undermanned Lakers to the sword at the Staples Center – two time LA champion Pau Gasol, who cross to the Bulls (30-17) this season.
The big Spaniard dropped a lazy 23 points and 13 rebounds in the Bulls’ 20-point Christmas Day drubbing of the Lakers (12-34), 113-93 in the two teams’ only meeting this season.
It’s his first trip back to the place he called home for more than six seasons and he says it will be an emotional return – but he still hasn’t faced his “brother” Bryant, who missed the previous clash with injury.
“Obviously, it’s an emotional game because you find yourself on the opposite side of the team that you played for for so many years,” Gasol told espn.com.
Gasol told the Chicago website he was more concerned by the Bulls’ repeatedly dropping games against teams they should beat.
“I think we have a resilient group, a group that is willing to fight and compete,” he said.
“We just can’t pick and choose when.
“That’s something we have to be aware of.”
The Warriors game showed the versatile Gasol’s full range of talents, recording 18 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists and four blocks.
And his partners in crime, Rose and big centre Joakim Noah, also stuffed the stat sheet in the 113-111 over time victory, wrecking the Warriors 19 game home winning streak and withstanding another monster night from Klay Thompson, who dropped a lazy 30 and 10, right after his 52 point game.
Noah dropped 18 points, 15 rebounds and had six dimes, while Rose had 30 and made a ridiculously tough jumpshot with Thompson’s hand in his face that proved the game winner, seven seconds from the end of over time.
Despite his 11 turnovers and his 30 points coming off 33 shots, it doesn’t matter how you win them, just if.
Things are just plain ugly in LA.
The Lakers have lost nine in a row – their longest losing streak for over 20 years.
And with Bryant and fellow shooting guard Nick Young out, they’re rolling out a side that might struggle in the D-League.
Jordan Hill is the only starter of note, with Jordan Clarkson, Wayne Ellington, Ryan Kelly and Robert Sacre making up the rest of the first unit in their last game, a
With Gasol off to the Bulls, the Lakers signed Carlos Boozer from Chicago to fill his void, but he hasn’t been nearly as effective, now reduced to a bench role with the struggling side. And Jeremy Lin, who it was hoped would renew the Lakers, has also found himself riding the pine.
They might be the most popular side in the world, but they’re far from the best.
Result: Chicago Bulls win
The Bulls can just hurt you in so many ways. While they’re a middling defensive unit, on the offensive end, it doesn’t just involve Rose, Gasol and Noah. Stunningly, with all that firepower, Jimmy Butler, who is a shoe in for Most Improved Player, leads the team at just a tick over 20 points per night. It’s uncertain if Butler will line up, after he missed the Warriors’ game with illness, but we don’t think it will matter. The Bulls have a host of players they can throw at the Lakers scrubs, with Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic capable of starters’ minutes and surprise packet Tony Snell improving with every game. Chicago has won three straight against the Lakers and six of their last seven contests. It’s about to be four straight and seven of eight.
- Chicago Bulls to defeat Los Angeles Lakers
- Milwaukee Bucks to defeat Orlando Magic
- New York Knicks to defeat Indiana Pacers
- Memphis Grizzlies to defeat Denver Nuggets
The NBA has a slate of four games on today and we’re going to have a stab at picking out a four leg multi to find a little value for punters.
You’ve already ready why we think the Bulls can beat Los Angeles, so that’s our first leg, even though it’s the last game on the card.
It’s hard not to love the Milwaukee Bucks (23-32). They might not have beaten the Orlando Magic (15-33) in Orlando for over 10 years, but the home side is on a seven match losing streak and ripe for the picking. Brandon Knight has been a revelation for the Bucks, with many people criticising the trade that brought him to Milwaukee and sent Brandon Jennings to Detroit. With Jennings down with an Achilles injury, the Bucks will feel they won that trade, getting 17.9 points and 5.1 assists out of Knight each evening. The Bucks will be too good.
New York? New York you say? Wait. Don’t call us crazy. Did you see the game yesterday? You know, the game where the woeful 9-37 Knicks defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder? Carmello Anthony is back with a vengeance, because he wants to play in the All Star game at Madison Square Garden and that spells really bad news for every team the Knicks play up until the break (before he probably gets shut down for the rest of the year). Anthony dropped 31 on the Thunder, leading the Knicks to their fourth win in five games… yes, you read that right. Indiana (16-31) has lost three straight home games, making this pick even more tastier.
There’s not much that hasn’t been said about the Memphis Grizzlies this season. They’re probably the most disciplined team in the league, they’re second in the West and they have a pair of monstrous men up front – Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol – who dictate terms against everyone they play against. The struggling Nuggets (19-27) will be more worried about draft picks than getting the win here and should provide no difficulty for the Grizz on their home floor.
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