CHICAGO, IL - On Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers started their five-game winning streak with a road victory, 108-103, against the Chicago Bulls to claim their fourth straight victory and eighth win over the previous 10 games despite star rookie point guard Lonzo Ball sitting out for the sixth straight game.
On this night, Lakers forward Brandon Ingram led the fight with his best game in nearly a fortnight and probably his best game sans Ball all season. Ingram finished the game with 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Nikola Mirotic led the Bulls with 18 points off the bench in the defeat.
In terms of the game flow, the Lakers didn't score their first basket until two minutes had elapsed, but led by Brook Lopez and Julius Randle starting strong, the Lakers tasted a 17-point lead in the opening period.
Unfortunately for the visitors, the Bulls' bench came in and cut that gap to only seven points by the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Kyle Kuzma, Jordan Clarkson, Alex Caruso and the second unit worked hard to get the Lakers back up by double figures and kept the Bulls at a comfortable distance for the majority of the period.
However, hot shooting from distance brought Chicago back into the game and closed the gap. With three minutes remaining in the first half, Chicago only trailed by four points, 54-50.
The Bulls would enter the locker room trailing by only five points, 62-57, after making nine of their 18 three-pointers. In contrast, the Lakers only hit four of their 13 attempts.
Considering how well the Lakers had started, only holding a five-point lead at the intermission had to be disappointing.
In the third quarter, the Bulls managed to momentarily level the game, but Lopez continued to play well against his twin brother, who is the Bulls' starting center. When the Lakers' center went to the bench in the third quarter, LA led by double figures and Lopez had tabbed a game-high 17 points in only 20 minutes at that stage, along with six rebounds, two blocks and an assist.
"Brook was probably out most consistent, best player tonight," Lakers coach Luke Walton said after the game.
The Lakers would end the third quarter leading the Bulls by 12 points and due to matchups, Lopez did not re-enter the game.
In the fourth quarter, the home team predictably fought back and even took the lead with a shade under three minutes remaining. However, Ingram calmly hit the shot with 1:24 remaining to give the Lakers a four-point lead. After that, the 20-year-old forward hit a couple free throws to help ice the game.
"Brandon was big down the stretch. He seemed to get a little more aggressive," Walton said after the game.
The Lakers' coach added, "Down the stretch he really asserted himself, which is what we want to see."
As the final score suggested, the Lakers managed to play strong defense and get stops late in games, which has been a recurring theme over the past 10 games.
Walton reiterated, "The way that you can pull out wins consistently is to be able to get stops on defense, and we've done that at least for this past 10, 11—whatever it’s been—games."
Asked about what has change over the past 10 games, Ingram offerred, "I think we're more confident. We're staying together. We're thinking defense first."
The North Carolina native added, "I think at some point you get tired of losing."