Bulls-Lakers Preview

The Associated Press

Any momentum the Los Angeles Lakers gained during a successful road trip can now be used to help end their struggles at home.

The Lakers can match a season-high three-game winning streak by avoiding a fifth consecutive home defeat Sunday against the Chicago Bulls.

Los Angeles (18-32) snapped a season-high seven-game skid with a 119-108 win at Cleveland on Wednesday and followed with Friday's 112-98 victory at Philadelphia to conclude a 2-1 trip.

"It feels great to get two wins in a row," said veteran Chris Kaman, who had 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three blocks Friday.

Though the Lakers have won five times in 24 contests, they've shot 51.8 percent in the last two and Friday snapped a 16-game stretch of yielding 100 points or more. They allowed an average of 112.5 during that span.

In his eighth game this season, Steve Nash scored 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting on his 40th birthday Friday.

"I thought I could play well, I could contribute," said Nash, who has played two of the last three since missing 39 straight games with back problems.

"At this point, I don't take anything for granted. It's a grind for me to get ready to play every day. I'm just thrilled I can move out there without restriction and help my team."

Assuming he's healthy to play consecutive games for the first time since early November, Nash will try to help the Lakers avoid their first five-game home skid since 2006-07.

A loser in 10 of 12 at home, Los Angeles, which is opening a six-game homestand, has allowed an average of 117.8 points on 48.7 shooting during a four-game skid at Staples Center. Though the Lakers have dropped four of five versus Chicago (24-25), their lone win came at home, 90-81 last season.

Los Angeles has won 13 of 16 at home against the Bulls.

Without injured stars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol for the Lakers, and Chicago's Derrick Rose, this one-time marquee matinée has lost some of its luster. However, minus Bryant, Nash and Rose, a layup from USC product Taj Gibson at the buzzer gave Chicago a 102-100 home victory in an entertaining overtime contest Jan. 20.

D.J. Augustin had 27 points and Joakim Noah added 17 with 21 rebounds for the Bulls, while Nick Young scored a season-high 31 for the Lakers.

Gibson matched a season high with 26 points and recorded 13 rebounds Thursday, but the Bulls blew a 16-point lead en route to a 102-87 loss at Golden State that dropped them to 2-3 on a six-game trip. Chicago shot 41.6 percent, committed 17 turnovers and allowed the Warriors to make 48.2 percent of their shots and half of their 22 3-point attempts.

"You've got to make some shots," coach Tom Thibodeau told the Bulls' official website. "I thought it was still winnable down the stretch and we didn't get it done."

Gibson was in the starting lineup while Carlos Boozer sat with a strained calf he suffered during warmups. Boozer is expected to play Sunday.

Though Noah has averaged 9.8 points on the trip and drew a $15,000 fine for his profanity-laced tirade toward the officials during Monday's 29-point loss at Sacramento, he's scored 35 to go with 38 rebounds in the last two games against the Lakers.

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