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Lakers show postseason promise with dominant win over Bulls

LeBron James had just jumped into the air after flying around the court and caught a rebound. Gracefully, he tipped it into the basket.

As he ran back down the court, D’Angelo Russell put his hands up to the side of his head as he, his eyes widening like a pair of deep-dish pizzas.

“I couldn’t help it,” Russell said later.

In that moment, he was in awe of James.

But in the moments that surrounded it, James was hardly alone.

Anthony Davis dominated. Austin Reaves was as efficient as ever. Jarred Vanderbilt alternated between guarding DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine. James regained his rhythm. And Russell conducted it all — the Lakers’ starting five playing as if they’d been together all season.

Before Wednesday’s 121-110 victory against the Chicago Bulls, the group had shared the court for a whopping seven possessions.

Starting with possession eight, the lineup looked unstoppable.

“It’s easy,” Russell said.

With their roster as close to being intact as it has been in more than a month, it was as sure a sign of the postseason promise the Lakers have sworn they possess, a team set to peak right when everything starts mattering the most.

Davis led the Lakers with 38 points, James had 25 and Reaves scored 17.

Highlighting the starting lineup’s dominance? The Lakers outscored the Bulls by 35 points in Russell’s 36 minutes.

“We understood the assignment,” James said. “We understand … every road trip is huge but because of our season and the way things have gone, this is the biggest road trip for us in this moment.”

Wednesday was the 79th starting lineup for the Lakers since the beginning of last season, but this group hardly looked like something that had just been put together.

“All the guys are selfless,” Davis said. “We play for each other. We make the right plays.”

From the start, it was clear, with Russell back on the court after sitting out consecutive games because of a hip injury.

Chicago Bulls’ Coby White (0) passes under pressure from the Lakers’ Anthony Davis during the second half Wednesday in Chicago.

(Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

“It’s just great, man, to kind of be healthy and get back out there and get things rolling again,” he said. “Obviously, you never want to sit out and miss games.”

The Lakers jumped to a 27-10 lead before the Bulls chipped away against the team’s reserves.

Chicago would eventually climb all the way back to lead by three midway into the second quarter before the Lakers starters again took over the game.

“I felt like we just played really good basketball out the gate,” Reaves said. “When you have that much talent on the court — Bron, AD, DLo, especially — and then you kinda fit me and Vando in there, hustle guys, play the right way, that’s what I really thought we started the game off [with].

“Making the extra pass. Just a lot of energy.”

The cushion extended whenever the five were on the court, Reaves authoring the final punctuation, a “too small” hand-to-the-court gesture directed at Patrick Beverley after Reaves hit a jumper in the paint over his former teammate.

Beverley made the same gesture to James in the Bulls’ win at Arena on Sunday.

“AR always got my back. Always … even though he loved Kobe back in the day more than me,” James said with a big laugh, referencing some old social media posts Reaves made about Kobe Bryant.

The vibes were strong in the locker room after the game, the team back at .500 with a chance to pick up a game on the Timberwolves when the Lakers play in Minnesota on Friday, with James’ strong performance in his second game back after sitting out a month a good reason for optimism.

“I’m just trusting the work I’ve been putting in. I know I put in a lot of work. I know my body,” he said.

The Lakers, though, really still don’t know this team as it’s still building chemistry after the team’s active trade deadline last month.

But seeing has been believing, the Lakers delivering convincingly Wednesday in a big game.

“We’ve got scoring, we’ve got shooting, we’ve got playmaking and we’ve got defensive guys. I think we’ve got everything we need,” Davis said.

“It’s just about going out and applying it. Sometimes, we have lapses in the game that bite us in the you know what. I think if we come out and play the way we did tonight with a focus and a sense of urgency, knowing the position we’re in, I think we’ll be fine.

“I think we clicked on all cylinders tonight. And if we continue to do that, we can definitely make a run. We’ve got all the right pieces from top to bottom.”

This story originally appeared on LA Times

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