The Los Angeles Lakers continued their very public implosion on Monday night as the Chicago Bulls handed L.A. its sixth consecutive road loss. The defeat drops Kobe Bryant and company to a dismal 17-24 on the season, while the 24-16 Bulls continue to look like a viable playoff participant even with Derrick Rose sidelined.
These four lessons stood out during the 95-83 Chicago victory:
1. The Lakers are looking even older than they are
L.A. starts three players with at least 13 years each of NBA experience, and the mileage has taken its toll. Playing their second game in as many days, the Lakers couldn’t even come close to matching the Bulls’ energy, and even 34-year-old Rip Hamilton was running rings around them for long stretches.
The problem is compounded by the fact that young gun Dwight Howard plays at such a plodding pace. Howard has the strength to vacuum up any rebound he can reach, but the Bulls still racked up 14 offensive boards because they were hustling to the ball and the Lakers weren’t.
2. Officiating is going to be a huge factor in any Chicago playoff series
The Pro Football Hall of Fame has announced its 2013 finalists, and with so many impressive names in the pool, some deserving players are guaranteed to miss the cut this time around. Even so, they won’t have nearly as much cause to complain as some of the all-time greats who have been ignored by the Hall of Fame voters year after year after year.
All five of these stars retired at least 25 years ago, yet Canton still hasn’t found time to open its doors for them:
5. Alex Karras, Detroit Lions
In the likely event that Warren Sapp finds his way into the Hall of Fame in the next few years, he’ll owe a major debt of gratitude to Alex Karras. The longtime Lion defensive tackle was one of the first interior linemen to specialize in quickness and penetration, making his living in the opponent’s backfield.
When the Chicago Bears fired Lovie Smith in the aftermath of another playoff-free season, they left little doubt that they would be moving in a different direction after nine years of Smith’s defense-first philosophy. Just how different wasn’t certain until Tuesday.
As reported by the Chicago Tribune, the Bears have hired Marc Trestman as their new head coach. The well-traveled Trestman has been an assistant at both the college and NFL levels, but his most recent job has been turning the Montreal Alouettes into one of the Canadian Football League’s powerhouses.
In five seasons in Montreal, Trestman won a pair of Grey Cups (the Canadian analogue to the Super Bowl), so he knows something about thriving under postseason pressure. More importantly, though, his time in the offense-dominated CFL can only be good news for his hopes of turning around the Bears’ underachieving offense.
In the weeks since the Chicago Bears fired Lovie Smith as head coach, no fewer than 13 names have emerged as targets to replace him. After a slew of candidate interviews, though, the Bears’ priorities are finally starting to become a little clearer.
As reported by NFL.com, Chicago seems to have tabbed three of its prospects as finalists by inviting them back for second visits with the team. That frontrunning trio consists of Montreal Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman of the Canadian Football League, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell of the Seattle Seahawks, and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians of the Indianapolis Colts.
Given the Bears’ obvious desire to move away from the one-dimensional defensive teams of the Smith era, it’s little surprise to see three offense-heavy choices leading the pack here. Trestman, in addition to his experience in the freewheeling CFL, can match the NFL experience of his competitors with stints as offensive coordinator for both the Cardinals and Raiders.
Despite a late scare, the Chicago Bulls continued their dominance over the New York Knicks on Friday night. New York rallied in the final minutes to close to within five, but couldn’t finish the comeback in a 108-101 Bulls win.
These four elements stood out in Chicago's 20th victory of the season:
1. The Bulls could win a playoff series even without Derrick Rose
To be fair, this statement is more an indictment of the quality of the Eastern Conference than a proclamation of Chicago’s rise. Still, the fact remains that the Bulls have won road games against Miami and New York (the conference’s putative top two seeds) in the space of a week.
Chicago’s defense remains strong enough to keep them in the game against even elite opponents, and the offense—held together with duct tape though it is—has gotten the job done. Obviously, the Bulls will be a dramatically better team with even a partial-strength version of Rose, but the former MVP won’t be joining a lost cause when he does return from his knee injury.
On the other hand…
2. If anything happens to Luol Deng, Chicago is sunk