CHICAGO -- Spirits were high as the Los Angeles Lakers came into Chicago on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
After putting an end to the slump that had plagued them for nearly a month with consecutive wins in Boston and Toronto, it was a loose Lakers locker room pregame. Players were comparing each other’s special MLK Day-edition sneakers and there was a coach with a renewed outlook on the season, even if he still had five of his best players sidelined because of injury.
“We’re just trying to win every game we can and trying to put ourselves in a position where at least there’s some hope and see if we can catch fire,” D’Antoni said before Monday's tilt with the Chicago Bulls. “We dug ourselves a big hole and we have to dig it out.”
The team once known as “Showtime” arrived with shovels ready to do some more digging against the rough-and-tumble Bulls.
The Lakers gave themselves a chance to win in a tough atmosphere on the second night of a back-to-back but couldn’t pull it off.
And those high spirits? They will certainly be tested after a devastating loss like this one.
How it happened: Nick Young scored 17 of his 31 points in the first half as the Lakers took a three-point lead into halftime; it was was the same margin that L.A. led by heading into the fourth. The Bulls swung the lead to three points in their direction before Pau Gasol scored back-to-back buckets in the lane to put the Lakers back up 88-87 with 2:51 remaining, then added another layup with 2:12 to go that gave L.A. a three-point cushion once again. Chicago’s D.J. Augustin tied it up with a 3-pointer with 1:18 remaining, then the Lakers went back inside to Gasol, who turned it over. Chicago followed with a Jimmy Butler reverse layup, putting the Bulls up 92-90 with 32.2 ticks left. Young missed a long jump shot on the next possession and Chicago went inside to Joakim Noah, who was fouled with 7.4 seconds remaining. Noah went 1-for-2 from the line, prompting L.A. to call timeout to set up a final play to try for a game-tying 3. Young, who has been adept at drawing fouls on jump shots this season, got Noah to contact him on a 3 and went on to hit all three free throws to tie it back up with 4.1 seconds left. Noah then took it inside for a left-handed hook, which missed over the rim, sending it to overtime.
Young kept it going in overtime, scoring on a ridiculous reverse layup that was shades of Michael Jordan’s “spectacular move” in the 1991 NBA Finals between the Lakers and Bulls. But Chicago hung tight, with Augustin making another 3 to tie it and a crafty layup to put the Bulls up 100-98 with 1:30 to go. Ryan Kelly grabbed an offensive rebound off a Young missed 3 on the next possession, but Gasol then turned it over. Gasol and Young both missed layups the next time down the floor. But L.A. trapped the Bulls into an Augustin turnover on the sideline, setting up another L.A. possession with 10.7 seconds remaining, still down by two.
Enter Swaggy P, again. Young hit a jumper on the baseline to tie it at 100-100 with 6.0 seconds in OT.
L.A. deflected the rock out of bounds on the Bulls’ next trip down, setting up Chicago ball under the hoop with 0.9 seconds left. The Bulls inbounded it to a cutting Taj Gibson, who barreled through an unsuspecting Manny Harris to get the game-winning layup at the buzzer.
What it means: The Lakers seem to have found that “special stuff” that D’Antoni talked about the team having when it went 10-9 without Kobe Bryant to start the season. But it’s going to be a challenge to mentally bounce back from this one.
Hits: Gasol had 20 points and 19 rebounds, along with five blocks and three steals, something no Laker had done since Shaquille O’Neal in 2001.
Kelly had 13 points and seven rebounds, giving him 50 points in the past three games.
Misses: The Bulls outrebounded L.A. 55-48.
Stat of the game: 5. That was L.A.’s lead in overtime before Chicago came surging back for the win.
Up next: L.A. gets a day off in Miami on Tuesday before welcoming Xavier Henry back to practice Wednesday. Then it’s another back-to-back set, Thursday against the Heat and Friday against the Orlando Magic before the Lakers close out their seven-game trip against the New York Knicks on Sunday.