The Chicago Bulls get another try to right the ship at home on Martin Luther King Jr Day against the formerly formidable Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers, as I'm sure you know, were one of the favorites in the Western Conference (and by extension, the NBA) when this season started. Now, under Mike D'Antoni and not Mike Brown, the Lakers, losers of 8 of their last 10, are on the verge of missing the playoffs entirely.
The Bulls, on the other hand, are one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference despite former MVP Derrick Rose having not yet played a second. They've outdone nearly everyone's expectations, winning 7 of their last 10.
But are these two teams all that different? The Bulls are 19-6 against their conference, which makes them 4-10 against the Western Conference. The Lakers, on the other hand, are 9-16 against the Western Conference, which makes them 8-7 against the Eastern Conference. While the Bulls are far superior against the East, the Lakers are less terrible against the far superior West. This has little bearing upon the playoff picture, nor is it an indictment of the Bulls, who, to their credit, continue to dominate the weaker teams in the East.
With improved play as of late, the Bulls sit at 9-13 against teams currently at or over .500. The Lakers are 8-17 against similar teams. The Bulls are the "better" team against the higher levels of competition, but their record leaves much to be desired, and is an anomaly among the so-called "elite" teams of this league. The Lakers have played more games against good teams and until very recently had more wins to show for it than Chicago. I'm not sure, that if these teams, as currently constructed, switched conferences that their records wouldn't be the inverse of what they are now.
Key Matchup: The Bulls wings vs. Kobe Bryant.
Anything the Belinelli/Hamilton/Butler group can do against the NBA's leading scorer will go a long way towards determining this game. Not much more to say than that.
Probable Starting Lineups
PF Carlos Boozer
SF Luol Deng/Jimmy Butler
SG Rip Hamilton
PG Kirk Hinrich
C Dwight Howard
PF Pau Gasol
SF Metta World Peace
SG Kobe Bryant
PG Steve Nash
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