(WSCR) – The Bulls are not only playing an exciting brand of basketball, but they’re also winning games while doing it. They’re 7-4 and have won five of their last six games. A fast start without free agent addition Carlos Boozer has created plenty of buzz about the Bulls this season. There are some who feel the team isn’t too far off from competing for an NBA title. But if the Bulls want to establish themselves as contenders, they will need to beat the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers tonight.
Lakers have been overwhelming opponents during their current winning streak. They may need to continue that dominant play to keep their run intact against the surging Chicago Bulls.
The Lakers seek a fifth consecutive victory Tuesday night when they host the Bulls, who have been outstanding defensively in winning five of six.
Los Angeles’ four straight wins have come by an average of 17.3 points, the most recent a 117-89 victory over Golden State on Sunday. Pau Gasol went 10 for 10 from the field and 8 for 8 from the free-throw line for 28 points, while adding nine rebounds and five assists.
He joined Charles Barkley and teammate Matt Barnes as the only players to have at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists without missing at least five shots from the field and free-throw line.
Barnes accomplished the feat Friday in a 112-95 victory over Minnesota with 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists while hitting all seven shots – five 3-pointers – and five free throws.
“Matt told me, ‘Welcome to the club,’” Gasol said. “I said, ‘Happy to be in there.’ It’s kind of weird that it happened that way. It’s weird, but it’s obviously a good sign.”
The blowout of the Warriors allowed coach Phil Jackson to rest his starters in preparation for Chicago. Kobe Bryant, who scored 20 points, played just over 26 minutes and no one exceeded Gasol’s 30:01 for the Lakers (12-2).
Los Angeles led 95-60 after three quarters.
“It’s very important,” Jackson told the team’s official website. “(The starters) have that reserve (energy) to go to Tuesday night if they need it.”
The Lakers lead the NBA with 112.5 points per game, but they may have a difficult time reaching that number against a Bulls team that has held seven of its 11 opponents to fewer than 100.
Chicago (7-4) has been particularly good during the past six games, allowing 92.7 points a contest.
The Bulls, three games into their annual six-game circus road trip, are coming off an 88-83 comeback victory over Dallas on Saturday. Joakim Noah scored 10 points and grabbed 17 rebounds for the Bulls, who held a 59-34 advantage on the boards.
“I can’t go through the motions,” Noah said. “I’ve got to keep going after the ball. We fought hard even when we were behind. We’re not a team that gives up.”
Chicago trailed by as many as 12 in the third quarter.
Taj Gibson, who shot 0-for-7 and went scoreless in Thursday’s 103-94 loss to San Antonio, had 17 points and a career-high 18 rebounds.
“Coach knows I’ve been working on my jumper, but he said don’t rely on jump shots,” Gibson said. “Attack the glass and hit the boards. I’ve struggled the last two games so he challenged me.”
The Bulls have lost four straight in Los Angeles and six in a row in the series. The Lakers have averaged 107.7 points in those six contests.
Copyright 2010 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press contributed to this article. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.