2 Points of Emphasis Ahead of Lakers vs. Bulls

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

The Lakers are in Chicago today to face the Bulls in the first leg of a three-game road trip. This is the first of their two matchups this season, and with trade rumors swirling between the two teams, it’s bound to be a fun one.

The Bulls have been hot as of late, winning two of their last three, with their loss being a two-point heartbreak on the road in Miami and their most recent win being a stunner against the former MVP on the road in Philadelphia.

Coming off back-to-back underwhelming performances by the Lakers, let’s dive into our points of emphasis to get back on track in Chicago.

Caruso the X-Factor?

Bulls guard Coby White has been nothing short of sensational in the absence of superstar Zach LaVine as he deals with his foot injury. In December, White is averaging 25.8 points and 6.8 rebounds and assists on 51.9% shooting to pair with 50.0% from the three-point line.

It’s evident that the former Tar Heel’s emergence has been part of the reason the Bulls have been so solid with LaVine out, posting a 6-3 record in that span. 

However, the unsung hero of the Bulls' success is former Laker Alex Caruso. In the five games Caruso has played in December, the Bulls are 5-0. In the three he’s missed, 0-3. Caruso’s presence may not be talked about in the media, but it’s analytically proven to be at the heart of the Bulls' success this month. 

In this time, Caruso has posted modest scoring numbers of 8.0 points on 55.2% from the field; however, his offensive contribution is evident by his 3.8 plus-minus, third on the team behind only Coby White and DeMar DeRozan.

In December, Caruso has the highest net rating of any player on the team at 9.6 (at least 10 mpg played.)

Caruso’s presence is especially felt on the defensive end, notching a team-low defensive rating of 103.5 this month. The Bulls are a worse defensive team without Caruso, recording a team defensive rating of 113.6 in games he plays this month but a 124.6 defensive rating without him.

The Lakers' offensive stars will need to be aggressive tonight and look to attack weaker defenders when Caruso is on the floor, as well as capitalize on the Bulls' defensive struggles with him off the floor.

Road Defensive Struggles

The Lakers are 10-3 at home on the year, but are only 5-9 on the road. Regardless of the location, LA is consistent offensively posting nearly identical numbers in such categories.

However, where the Lakers differ in road games versus home ones is on the defensive end.

On the road, the LakeShow averages 3.5 fewer defensive rebounds and 1.7 fewer steals and posts a 119.1 team defensive rating compared to their 103.9 at home.

The Lakers will need to buckle down on the defensive end, neutralizing the Bulls' strong offensive players and focusing on crashing the defensive boards for their best chance of victory.

The Lakers will look to replicate their win from their most recent matchup with the Bulls in March in what should be another hard-fought yet earned win tonight.

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