Los Angeles (18-4) at Chicago (8-14)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Chicago, IL
Temp: 79° F
  • Game info: 8:00 pm EST Tue Dec 15, 2009
  • TV: KCAL, WGN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Los Angeles Lakers’ longest road trip of the season thus far couldn’t get off to much of a worse start for Kobe Bryant(notes).

A visit to the United Center might provide him with the chance to bounce back.

Bryant and the Western Conference-leading Lakers visit the struggling Chicago Bulls on Tuesday, trying to rebound from their first loss in 12 games.

Bryant began this five-game road trip after suffering a broken index finger in a home win against Miami on Friday. The finger - and a stomach bug - appeared to significantly affect him in a 102-94 loss at Utah on Saturday. Bryant finished with a season-low 16 points on 7-of-24 shooting.

Bryant, who is averaging 27.8 points, left without speaking to the media afterward. He was getting IV fluids before the game and at halftime.

“I think it was just energy-wise for him,” coach Phil Jackson said. “He’d figure out a way to go at it if he had the energy, but I just don’t think he had the energy.”

The loss snapped an 11-game winning streak by the Lakers (18-4), who despite having all five starters finish in double figures, failed to reach 100 points for the fifth time.

Pau Gasol(notes) scored 16 points and had his second consecutive 20-rebound game.

“I’m just staying active and pursuing the ball,” he said. “I don’t get that many looks offensively so I need to hit the boards to get some points, otherwise I only get like five shots a game.”

While it was a tough start to the road trip for the Lakers, the remaining games are far less difficult. All four opponents have losing records, and Chicago (8-14) has lost 10 of 12. Los Angeles is 10-0 against teams with sub-.500 records.

The Lakers have won five straight over the Bulls, including their last two at Chicago. Bryant in particular has enjoyed playing at the United Center, averaging 26.6 points in his last eight games.

Bryant scored 21 points in a 108-93 win at home over Chicago on Nov. 19, which began the Bulls’ current slide.

Chicago shot a season-low 32.6 percent in a 106-80 loss to Boston on Saturday. Derrick Rose(notes) finished with a team-high 19 points, but scored only eight in the second half when the Bulls were outscored 52-34 by the Eastern Conference leaders.

Chicago had snapped a four-game losing streak in its previous game with an overtime win over Golden State. Its last five losses, though, the Bulls have been outscored by an average of 21.8 points while scoring only 85.8 per game.

The Bulls’ struggles have led to mounting pressure on coach Vinny Del Negro.

“We just have to keep playing hard,” Luol Deng(notes) said. “I don’t know what else to tell you.”

Part of the problem has been their struggles beyond the arc. They were 1 of 9 on Saturday and are shooting 29.5 percent overall from 3-point range - one of the worst in the NBA. John Salmons(notes), who shot 41.5 percent from 3-point range in 2008-09, is shooting only 32.7 percent this season. He scored a season-low four points on Saturday, but did make 3 of 5 from beyond the arc and finished with 18 points against the Lakers last month.

After Tuesday, Chicago has three more games on its season-long six-game homestand—two against teams with losing records.

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Tuesday, Dec 15