LOS ANGELES — Lonzo Ball’s jersey was untucked, and he was snatching rebounds out of the air with attitude.
This was far from the sometimes passive rookie the Lakers have seen at times this season. Down by as much as 19 and looking as cooked as a turkey this Thanksgiving, the Lakers refused to quit yet again whenever they fall behind big.
The Lakers came to life in the third quarter and fought the Chicago Bulls down the stretch with Ball hitting the glass like a dominant big man for the second straight game.
Following up his second triple-double which featured a career-high 16 rebounds, Ball snagged 13 boards to go with eight points and four assists as the Lakers came away with an inspired 103-94 win that wasn’t decided until the final three-plus minutes. It was their biggest comeback of the season.
Ball’s impact on the game could be felt not only on the glass but with a 20-7 run in the fourth that helped the Lakers clinch the game. At one point, Ball snagged a rebound before flinging the ball across and up the court to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who shot a rhythm 3-pointer to push the Lakers up 97-92 with 1:42 remaining. The Bulls never recovered.
Kyle Kuzma scored 18 of his 22 points in the first half but several other Lakers picked the team up in the second half like Caldwell-Pope, who scored 16 of his 21 points after halftime.
The Lakers looked horrible at times in the first half, almost as if they were looking ahead to the Thanksgiving break. After playing a back-to-back set against Chicago and then a game in Sacramento on Wednesday, the Lakers have a rare four-day break before playing the Clippers next Monday.
Certainly the Lakers defense looked as if it were already on break. The Lakers watched Antonio Blakeney explode for 15 points in eight minutes and throw down a vicious one-handed dunk on Julius Randle. Denzel Valentine (17 points) also was hot early.
But the Lakers came to life in the third quarter. After falling behind 61-42 with 10:24 to go in the third, the Lakers mounted a furious 30-12 run to cut the deficit to one shortly before the end of the quarter. Throughout this season, the Lakers have somehow managed to keep coming at opponents despite blowing a big lead or falling behind big.
After going scoreless in the first half, Julius Randle sparked the Lakers with eight points, four rebounds and one magnificent block at the rim on Bobby Portis, who was flying toward the basket looking to throw down a dunk.
Jordan Clarkson, the other Lakers’ sub who has been strong this season off the bench, scored 10 points in 14-plus minutes to help even the game at 80-80 with 9:32 left.
The Lakers took their first lead since 21-20 with a Caldwell-Pope putback with 3:06 remaining in the game. The Bulls never recovered as Ball kept hitting the glass and pushing the pace to finish Chicago.
Los Angeles now has won two straight (8-10) before flying to Sacramento where Ball will have a much anticipated rookie showdown for the first time as pros against De’Aaron Fox.