The Chicago Bulls' longest road trip of the season is starting at a bad time considering their recent struggles, but they're at least kicking it off with a favorable matchup.
The Los Angeles Lakers could establish a season-worst losing streak Thursday night with the Bulls beginning a seven-game trip seeking a seventh win in the last nine meetings.
Since a season-best six-game winning streak, Chicago (25-19) has gone 3-7 with some awful offensive efforts creeping in. Among them was Monday's 89-84 home loss to Miami with the Bulls shooting 39.8 percent. Dating to an 83-77 home loss to Dallas on Jan. 15, they have been limited to 25.0 percent from 3-point range.
Pau Gasol led the Bulls with 19 points and 17 rebounds Monday and shot 9 for 18, but the rest of the starting five was 11 of 35 as inconsistency becomes the norm. Gasol has averaged 20.7 points and 12.7 rebounds in three straight double-doubles, but that followed an 0-for-8 performance in last Wednesday's loss to Golden State.
"It's repetitive," Gasol told the team's official website. "It's definitely a pattern. It's happened all season long and continues to happen. Right now that's just who we are, capable of great games and capable of not being able to sustain those.
"We do have a lot of injuries, key players, veteran players who could help us out, who know how to navigate and deal with the situations. But it is what it is. We have a tough road trip coming up. Let's see if we can actually get some continuity and some good games together."
Derrick Rose missed the second half against the Heat because of lower back and right hamstring injuries, and the Bulls were already playing without backup guards Kirk Hinrich (bruised quadriceps) and E'Twaun Moore (hamstring strain). They're also dealing with long-term injuries to Mike Dunleavy and Joakim Noah, and forward Nikola Mirotic will be sidelined until after the All-Star break after having his appendix removed Wednesday.
Rose will play against the Lakers (9-38), however.
The Lakers won the last meeting, 123-118 in overtime at home last Jan. 29 despite 35 points from Jimmy Butler, but that seems like the kind of individual effort Los Angeles can't keep up with at the moment.
During their second seven-game losing streak of the season, the Lakers have been outscored by an average of 16.3 points with opponents scoring 110.0 per game and shooting 48.8 percent. However, Tuesday's 92-90 defeat to Dallas was a comparative success, particularly on the defensive end after giving up at least 108 points in six straight games.
"I'm never happy about a loss, but I was extremely happy about our effort and how hard we played," said coach Byron Scott, whose team is also trying to avoid extending a season-worst home skid to five. "I thought for the first time in a while, we really paid attention to the little details that we've been talking about. We really focused in on that end of the floor."
Julius Randle had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and the second-year forward is averaging 13.0 and 11.3 in his last three games while shooting 45.7 percent. The 21-year-old, limited to one game last season because of a broken leg, entered that span averaging 6.8 points and shooting 31.8 percent in his previous 10 games.
"I put a lot of hours into it," Randle told the team's official website. "Day and night - it's a lot of hours. It's coming around slowly."
Kobe Bryant sat out the Dallas game with a sore a sore right shoulder and hasn't faced the Bulls since 2012-13.