Bulls vs. Lakers: Los Angeles could move into eighth in West with win

USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers are trying to move into the playoff race and the Bulls are trying to inch closer to homecourt advantage in the first round.

There are playoff implications for both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Chicago Bulls heading into Sunday's game at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

If the Lakers (32-31) win, they move a half game in front of the idle Utah Jazz for eighth place in the Western Conference standings. The two teams have identical records, but Utah holds the tie-breaker.

Los Angeles is coming off of a back-to-back pair of exciting wins, albeit against bad teams. The Lakers trailed the New Orleans Hornets by as many as 25 points March 6, but had a furious fourth quarter rally that included a 20-0 scoring run to come back and win, 108-102. On March 8 against the Toronto Raptors, they trailed by as many as 15 points before forcing overtime and eventually beating the Raptors.

Kobe Bryant led both comebacks. He scored 42 points against the Hornets and 41 points against the Raptors. Bryant is averaging 35.9 points per game over his last eight games and he has three games scoring 40 or more points in that stretch.

The Bulls (35-27) come into the game with their typically stout defense, which allows the third fewest points per game in the league. They're allowing opponents to shoot just 43.5 percent this season, which also puts them at third best in the league.

Chicago is coming off an exciting win of its own, led by its shooting guard. Marco Belinelli hit a game-winning three-pointer with five seconds left to help the Bulls get a one-point win over Utah Friday. Belinelli has scored 20 or more points in three straight games. He's averaging 21 points per game in that stretch and making 67 percent of his three-pointers over those three games.

The Bulls are currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, trailing the Brooklyn Nets for fourth place and homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs by 1.5 games. A win over Los Angeles would pull the Bulls within one game of idle Brooklyn.

Chicago beat the Lakers, 95-83, in Chicago in January. Bryant shot just 7-for-22 in that game. The Bulls are one of the top road teams in the league with a 17-13 record away from home this season. The Lakers are 21-11 at home.

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