The Los Angeles Lakers will go to The Windy City to face the Chicago Bulls at United Center in Chicago on Christmas Day, Dec. 25. Viewers can watch the Lakers vs. Bulls game online via live stream - free for subscribers - below.
Much like LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers returning to Miami to play against his former team, Pau Gasol will be facing former teammate Kobe Bryant and the Lakers under a new team. Stats LLC reported that Gasol signed a three-year, $22 million deal with Chicago this summer after playing more than six seasons with the Lakers.
"Emotional, weird, hard to focus, but at the same time I kind of look forward to it in a way," Gasol said of Thursday's showdown. "To see some of the people that I've been through a lot with ... Just makes Christmas a little more special."
According to Stats LLC, Gasol has averaged 18 points and a career-best 11.4 rebounds. His arrival has provided a big boost for the Bulls, who are now on top of the Central Division after a 7-1 run.
In order to win against Los Angeles, though, Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post noted that the Bulls will need Jimmy Butler to "continue producing at an all-star level."
"His 4.9 win shares rank fifth in the league and has been consistently making baskets from the right side of the court," Greenberg wrote.
Greenberg added that the Bulls have an effective field goal percentage of 44.4 percent along with the eighth most points scored per 100 possessions (109.3).
Bulls center Joakim Noah commented on the status of his team.
"It's real, Chicago Bulls are getting healthy again. It's very real," Noah said. "We know the sky's the limit for our team. Our confidence is getting better, and we're just going to keep working. It's all coming and it's going to be a special year."
Stats LLC noted that Carlos Boozer did the opposite of Gasol; he went to the Lakers after being cut by Chicago through the use of the amnesty clause. However, Noah doesn't have any hard feelings against his former teammate for going to Los Angeles.
"I think he should get some love," Noah said of Boozer. "Carlos was big part of this team for four years, and somebody who fought hard every night."
According to Greenberg, the key to a Lakers victory will once again rest on Kobe Bryant, 36, who leads the team in points per game (24.6) and has been used in 36.4 percent of team plays while on the floor. While he is expected to return after sitting out the game against Golden State, which Los Angeles won 115-105, Lakers coach Byron Scott allowed Bryant to rest as part of his game strategy.
"Looking at our schedule coming up, I just thought it was a good time to give him a day of rest and let him prepare for the next game," Scott said. "He's on board with it. ... You've got to remember -- this is 19 years in this league. That's an unbelievable career. I don't care how much his mind is willing. You're not going to be able to play 82 games at the level that he is accustomed to playing."
According to Stats LLC, Chicago had dropped seven straight against Los Angeles before taking five of the last six meetings. In addition, Bryant has averaged 30.4 points over his last nine games on Christmas.
Thursday's game will air on TNT at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. ET. While subscriptions and logins are required, online views can stream the game through different camera angles at TNT Overtime and catch the original broadcast in real time on TNT Drama.