Short-handed Lakers ride five-game slide into Chicago
As the final games on a disappointing season wind down for the Los Angeles Lakers, coach Luke Walton hopes his players don't completely throw in the towel.
The Lakers will try to end a five-game losing streak when they visit the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night.
Los Angeles had high hopes of making the playoffs after acquiring LeBron James during the offseason, but those hopes took a hit when he missed 17 games in the middle of the season with a groin injury. The Lakers haven't played well since his return on Jan. 31, posting a 4-10 record in the games he has played.
"I want to see us continue to grind out and start winning games again," Walton told reporters after a 120-107 loss against the visiting Boston Celtics on Saturday. "When things are going easy it's fun for everybody, you're winning games, but where you really show what you're made of and where you really get growth is when times are tough."
The short-handed Lakers are missing third-leading scorer Brandon Ingram and point guard Lonzo Ball and could also be without No. 2 scorer Kyle Kuzma (ankle) for a third straight game.
Los Angeles is facing a Chicago team that hasn't had a winning record all season, was 10 games under .500 by Thanksgiving weekend and 30 games under .500 by Feb. 6.
The Bulls have lost four of their last five, most recently a 131-108 loss to the Detroit Pistons on Sunday.
Chicago players and coaches were impressed with the Pistons, who are in good position to reach the postseason for just the second time in the past 10 seasons.
"We've got to learn from the Pistons," Bulls coach Jim Boylen told reporters after the loss. "Their bench guys come off with force. They take pride in their minutes and they play them the best they can and they sit down and root for the other guys. ... They've got a couple stars, they've got some good role players and they've got guys that can play their minutes. They have maturity."
The Bulls might also be short-handed against the Lakers, as leading scorer Zach LaVine (23.3) sat out against the Pistons because of a right patellar tendon strain. The Bulls dressed just 10 players against Detroit.
"I'll wait for the pain to go away and see how I feel (Monday)," LaVine told the Chicago Tribune before the Detroit game. "I think it will be day by day. I'll feel it out."
James hasn't taken the Lakers to another level the way he lifted the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers when he joined those teams.
When he went from the Cavaliers to the Heat in 2010-11, the Heat won 11 more games over the previous season, and when James went back to Cleveland for the 2014-15 season, the Cavaliers improved by 20 wins over the previous season.
The Lakers won 35 games last season, meaning they'd need to go 6-10 down the stretch to get to 36 wins.
"Times are really tough right now, so I want to see our group fight out of this," Walton said. "I want to see our group continue to work hard, continue to compete and start winning some games."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 11, 2019