Bulls battle Lakers in matchup of COVID-impacted teams

NBA Basketball

The United Center in Chicago on Sunday is slated to host NBA basketball for the first time in nearly two weeks.

No bull.

While seven players remain in COVID-19 protocols, the Chicago Bulls are whole enough to entertain the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night. As with several teams across the league, the Lakers are contending with COVID concerns, as five players and head coach Frank Vogel will miss the game due to health and safety protocols.

Chicago will be without Zach LaVine, Derrick Jones Jr., Matt Thomas, Ayo Dosunmu, Troy Brown Jr., Alize Johnson and Stanley Johnson.

The Lakers will be without Anthony Davis, who is out at least four weeks after an MRI revealed he sprained the MCL in his left knee. Davis injured the knee Friday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, leaving the game.

Los Angeles’ pandemic-related inactives include Talen Horton-Tucker, Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley, Malik Monk and Kent Bazemore. David Fizdale will serve as the acting head coach in Vogel’s absence.

The game initially was set for an afternoon tip but was shifted to the evening to allow the teams more time. The Bulls on Saturday were cleared for practice — Chicago’s first team activity since a 118-92 loss at Miami on Dec. 11 to cap an 0-2 trip.

“We’re dealing with a conditioning factor, we’re dealing with a rhythm and timing situation,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “We’re dealing with our team, really the last probably 12 days, two weeks. It’s been pretty much every day we’ve had somebody that has been in health and safety protocol. Our team has totally changed.”

On a positive note, the hiatus, which postponed Tuesday’s scheduled home game against Detroit and a trip to Toronto two days later, allowed a handful of Chicago players to return to health. Leading scorer DeMar DeRozan, who ranks fifth in the league with 26.4 points per game, tops the list. The Bulls also will welcome reinforcements in Coby White and Javonte Green as they open a stretch of three home games in four days.

The Lakers will aim to secure a winning record on a three-game trip that concludes in Chicago. Los Angeles is coming off Friday’s 110-92 loss at Minnesota.

Davis, who turned his right ankle earlier in the game, was seen tumbling to the ground in pain as he attempted to walk through the tunnel.

“My concern is always for his health,” the Lakers’ LeBron James said. “You always wish for the best for any of your teammates, but especially a guy like AD. So you wish for the best and leave it up to the man above’s hands.”

Making his season debut, Isaiah Thomas scored 19 points for Los Angeles. James posted a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds and is averaging 28.0 points over his past 10 games. Russell Westbrook chipped in 14 points.

“We always feel like we have enough to win,” Vogel said. “We’re not feeling sorry for ourselves.”

Chicago is aiming to sweep the season series after defeating the Lakers 121-103 in Los Angeles on Nov. 15 behind 38 points from DeRozan. Davis had 20 points and six rebounds before being ejected late in the third quarter. Horton-Tucker led the Lakers with 28 points.

The Lakers were without James, who was sidelined with an abdominal strain.

Los Angeles leads the all-time series 94-64.

–Field Level Media

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