Not Much Defense Likely Between Young Lakers & Bulls

bulls lakers

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, January 25, 2018 8:30 PM UTC

Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018 8:30 PM UTC

The front offices of the Lakers and Bulls would prefer their teams lose as much as possible the rest of this season, but someone has to win Friday night’s game in Chicago. We prefer the total.

Los Angeles Lakers at Chicago BullsFree NBA Pick: OverBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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Second and final meeting between these young rebuilding teams, with tipoff at 8 p.m. ET from the United Center. One would think a matchup between the No. 2 and No. 3 media markets would be nationally televised but it’s not. So, hopefully you have NBA League Pass or live locally.

The Bulls visited the Lakers on Nov. 21 and lost 103-94 – but it that was the Chicago team that started 3-20 and this current club is much different. The Lakers were down as much as 19 but outscored the Bulls 30-19 in the third quarter and 31-19 in the fourth. Kyle Kuzma had 22 points, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 11 of his 21 in the fourth quarter. Lonzo Ball had eight points, 13 rebounds and four assists. Denzel Valentine scored 17 points, Kris Dunn had 12 points and six assists, and Lauri Markkanen 13 points and 14 rebounds. The Bulls hadn’t seen the season debut of Nikola Mirotic back then.

L.A.'s win in Chicago last season snapped a five-game road losing streak in the series, but the Lakers are still 2-5 ATS in their past seven in the Windy City.

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Rookie Showcase

Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons is going to win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, but two players from this game likely will join Simmons on the All-Rookie First Team in the Lakers’ Kuzma and Bulls’ Markkanen.

Kuzma, an absolute steal at No. 27 overall out of Utah, is averaging 16.7 points and 6.0 rebounds. He was terrific Tuesday in an upset of the Celtics with 28 points – 17 in the fourth quarter -- on 10-for-16 shooting along with four rebounds and three assists. It was the sixth time this season that Kuzma scored at least 25 points in a game. The last rookie not drafted with one of the first 25 picks with as many 25-point games in one season was the Wizards’ Jordan Crawford, who had six in 2010–11.

No question that Kuzma has been more impressive than No. 2 overall pick and teammate Lonzo Ball, who hasn’t played since Jan. 13 due to knee troubles and won’t here. The guy who has benefited most from Ball’s absence has been Jordan Clarkson, who is averaging 28.0 points, 7.0 assists and 6.0 rebounds in the past three. The Lakers are shopping Clarkson for salary reasons. L.A. (18-29 SU, 24-23 ATS) has won three straight and seven of nine overall during their best stretch of the season.

After that 3-20 start, Chicago (18-30 SU, 29-18-1 ATS) is 15-10 since Mirotic made his season debut after being injured in a fight with teammate Bobby Portis. The Bulls still want to move Mirotic for a 2018 first-round pick as they want to lose as much as possible this season to land a franchise player in the draft.

However, now that Mirotic and Zach LaVine are healthy, the team is competitive every night. That’s also due to Markkanen, the 7-foot Finn taken No. 7 overall. He’s averaging 15.4 points and 7.6 rebounds. Markkanen became the fastest rookie in NBA history to reach 100 3-pointers made. He and Kuzma faced off last year in the Pac-12.

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Lauri Markkanen has been selected for the Rising Stars game at NBA All-Star 2018, and a big reason for that has been his all-around game.

He’s top five among rookies in scoring, three-point shooting and rebounding. He also had some exciting blocks so far this season: pic.twitter.com/owBZAPttfc

— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 25, 2018
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The Bulls will again be without another good-looking young player in Dunn, who came over with LaVine and that No. 7 overall pick, used to select Markkanen, in the Jimmy Butler trade. Dunn has missed the past three with a concussion. Jerian Grant has been starting in his spot. Both Dunn – a terrific defender -- and Markkanen will participate in the Rising Stars Game at All-Star Weekend.

Young teams generally struggle on defense and that’s the case here as the Lakers allow 109.9 ppg (27th) and the Bulls 109.0 (25th). The ‘over’ is 6-1 in the Bulls’ past seven at home and 5-2 in L.A’s previous seven against the East. That’s our NBA pick for Friday (and a Bulls victory).

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