The Los Angeles Lakers will look to run their winning streak to six when they visit the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night.
Los Angeles has reeled off five straight victories since dropping the season opener against their intra-city rival Los Angeles Clippers. After six sub-.500 seasons in a row, the Lakers sit atop the Western Conference standings.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis provide the star power for Los Angeles. But it has been another veteran, journeyman center Dwight Howard, who has emerged as a key factor during the winning streak.
The 33-year-old Howard has done a little bit of everything while averaging 6.8 points and 8.2 rebounds in six games off the bench this season. He looks rejuvenated and said his teammates feel much the same way.
“We believe that the only one that can beat us is ourselves,” Howard recently said in comments published by The Athletic. “No offense to any player or any team or anything but for us to be a championship team when we step on the court, we got to believe that the guys in this locker room and the coaching staff can get the job done every night.”
The mood is not as joyous in Chicago, where the Bulls are coming off an ugly 108-95 road loss against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday evening. Chicago has lost four of its last five games despite a new-look roster that includes veteran forward Thaddeus Young, proven guard Tomas Satoransky and rookie first-round pick Coby White, among others.
Bulls coach Jim Boylen said his team’s offense has been fine, but its defense needs work.
But guard Zach LaVine echoed his teammates’ frustration when asked how to fix the early-season mess.
“Why does it look this this? I don’t know, man,” LaVine said in comments published by the Chicago Sun-Times. “If I knew the answer to that, I don’t think we’d be playing this way. It’s just as frustrating on the inside as it is on the outside. Obviously, we want to win; we’re the ones playing. It hurts us a lot to be playing like this and losing games we’re supposed to win.
“All you can do is go on to the next game, work on what you didn’t do well, and correct it.”
That could be easier said than done against the Lakers. Davis leads the team with 28.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per game, while James is not far behind at 25.5 points and 8.0 rebounds. And James’ 11.2 assists per contest not only lead the Lakers but are 1.5 assists per game better than any other player in the NBA.
Danny Green (11.2 points per game), Avery Bradley (10.7) and Kyle Kuzma (7.0) also are capable of providing complementary scoring.
Chicago is led in scoring by LaVine, who enters Tuesday’s contest averaging 21.1 points on 43.2-percent shooting. Lauri Markkanen (16.0) and Wendell Carter Jr. (14.6) are next on the scoring list.
Chicago is 1-1 at home this season. Los Angeles is 2-1 on the road.
“We’re just trying to figure each other out and learn by experience,” Davis told The Athletic. “You know every time we get a game, we hit adversity, it’s new for us, and we try to learn from it.”
–Field Level Media