After 20 different combinations of starting lineups, the Los Angeles Lakers found lineup no. 21 and seem to be sticking with it. Rookie Ryan Kelly’s addition to the lineup adds shooting, versatility and a surprising toughness to the team.
On Monday, Kelly expects to make his second career start as the Lakers take on the Chicago Bulls. Despite sending Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers for future draft picks and financial relief, the Bulls are sixth in the Eastern Conference and teetering around .500.
Meanwhile, the Lakers have won two in a row and are back to playing respectable basketball. LA is still nowhere near the playoffs in the Western Conference, but this team is rallying behind the recent fight, ejection and suspension of Nick Young. The Lakers had a meeting following the ejection, and the team seems to have bonded over the incident.
With the thought of tanking completely being rejected by the coaching staff and players, the Lakers will look to get their third straight win on Monday, but a win against the Bulls will not be easy. The Bulls have won seven of their nine games in the New Year, and Joakim Noah played a large role in the wins.
The Bulls, incidentally, have split the past four games. Over the past two wins, Noah averaged 23.5 points and 17.5 rebounds. Over the past two losses, the Bulls’ center averaged 8.5 points and 14.0 rebounds. Since the start of 2014, Noah is averaging 14.7 points and 14.0 rebounds per game.
Along with Noah, backup point guard D.J. Augustin has been providing a big lift off the bench. Augustin joined the Bulls in mid-December, but the 26-year-old has steadily increased his role over that time. Over the past five games, Augustin is averaging 16.2 points and 7.6 assists off the bench.
Limiting Augustin and taming Noah are keys to the game. Keeping Carlos Boozer off the board would not hurt the Lakers any, either.
The Lakers come into their game against the Bulls as underdogs, but that role is something these Lakers are accustomed to. In fact, these Lakers seem to welcome the underdog tag and relish in the opportunity to prove critics wrong. On Monday at 5 pm PST, the Lakers will take the floor of the United Center in Chicago and have yet another opportunity to do just that.