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Lakers vs. Bulls final score: 3 things we learned from Chicago's 20-point blowout win

Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol and Derrick Rose each scored over 20 points for Chicago in the victory.

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Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bulls are starting to find a groove. The Bulls had already racked up victories over Memphis, Toronto and Washington in the last week before hosting the Lakers on Christmas day at the United Center. Without Kobe Bryant, a short-handed Lakers team never really stood a chance. Chicago rode a balanced scoring effort and tough defense to a 113-93 win Thursday night.

Chicago established its dominance early. Derrick Rose scored the first seven points for the Bulls, continuing the strong play he showed against the the Raptors and Wizards earlier in the week. Rose finished with 20 points and six assists in the win. He also did this:


Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol also starred for Chicago. Butler scored 21 points and added six rebounds and five assists. Gasol chipped in 23 points and 12 rebounds in 32 minutes of play.

The Bulls led by 11 at the half, but the Lakers came out hot in the third quarter to make it a game. Los Angeles used an 11-2 run to get within two points, but Chicago's obvious talent advantage would eventually prove to be too much for the Lakers to overcome.

Los Angeles shot only 38.9 percent from the field, while Chicago hit 50 percent of its shots. The Bulls also dominated the glass, 57-39. Four Lakers scorers reached double figures, led by 19 points from Wesley Johnson. Jordan Hill had 16 points and Carlos Boozer had 14 points and five rebounds off the bench.

1. All the pieces are coming into place for Chicago

The Bulls have had as much bad luck as any team in the NBA the last three seasons. Chicago hasn't had Derrick Rose in the playoffs since his MVP year in 2011, and it each new season seemed to bring a new wave of adversity to Tom Thibodeau's team. While there's still a long way left to go before the playoffs, it does seem like Chicago is finally poised to take its best shot at reaching the NBA Finals.

Rose is back and he's playing fantastic lately. For Chicago, the best thing about Rose's return is that he doesn't need to be a one man army anymore. Jimmy Butler has blossomed in his fourth season and will almost certainly be an All-Star this year. With Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic, the Bulls might have the deepest front court in the league.

Injuries can strike at any time, a lesson Chicago knows as well as any organization. If this team stays healthy, though, Chicago has to like its chances out East.

2. The Lakers are bad with or without Kobe Bryant

Bryant is putting up amazing per game numbers, but he's not doing it efficiently at all. While Bryant entered the night as the NBA's third leading scorer, it wasn't all that surprising the Lakers played better without him. When Bryant rested Tuesday against the Warriors, the Lakers were able to pull one of the biggest upsets of the young season.

With Bryant resting again on Christmas, the Lakers couldn't put together the same magic in Chicago. Los Angeles was badly out-rebounded, struggled to finish in the paint and foul too much.

It's starting to become apparent that no single player is going to fix the Lakers. It's going to take three or four talented guys to lift this franchise from the bottom of the loaded Western Conference. A top-five pick will help if the Lakers are bad enough to reach the protection in draft selection they owe the Suns. A big free agent or two wouldn't hurt either. For this year, though, the only thing that will keep Lakers fans going is the thought of a better tomorrow.

3. The Bulls' greatest advantage is their depth

With Gibson, Mirotic, Aaron Brooks and the currently injured Kirk Hinrich, Thibodeau has a nine-man rotation he can trust. That hasn't always been the case during his time in Chicago.

Yes, Butler is leading the NBA in minutes per game. The Bulls have also relied too heavily on Gasol early in the season. Lately, though, Mirotic is coming into his own and Brooks has found his niche as the Bulls' latest reclamation project at backup point guard. As long as Tom Thibodeau is flexible, depth should be an advantage for the Bulls in both the short-term and the long-term. It's a great combination for a team with a long history of injury concerns.

On Thursday, Mirotic poured in 13 points, Gibson scored nine and Brooks added eight. There aren't many teams that bring so much production off the pine.


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