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College rivals lock horns when Bulls meet Lakers

LOS ANGELES -- Three of the 10 players who were selected first-team All-Pac-12 earlier this year could play significant roles when the Los Angeles Lakers host the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night at Staples Center.

Lonzo Ball (UCLA) and Kyle Kuzma (Utah) start for the Lakers, and fellow first-round draft pick Lauri Markkanen (Arizona) starts for the Bulls.

Kuzma leads the Lakers in scoring at 16.5 points per game and Markkanen leads the Bulls at 15.6 points while also topping the team at seven rebounds per game.

Markkanen, a 7-foot power forward from Finland, is coming off a season-high 26 points in a 113-105 loss at the Phoenix Suns on Sunday.

Kuzma, a 6-9 stretch forward, posted his season high of 30 points in a 122-113 loss to the visiting Suns on Friday.

Ball, a 6-6 point guard, logged his second triple-double of the season in a 127-109 win over the visiting Denver Nuggets on Sunday, finishing with 11 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists. Ball had his first triple-double on Nov. 11 in a 98-90 loss at the Milwaukee Bucks.

"This one's a lot better," Ball said Sunday. "I actually like this one."

Ball joined Magic Johnson as the only Lakers with multiple triple-doubles during their rookie season.

Ball's performance was especially welcomed because he had struggled in the previous three games, combining for 15 points on 7-of-26 shooting and failing to produce more than six rebounds or assists.

"The media will probably love him (Monday) and hate him again the next day," Lakers coach Luke Walton said. "He's going to stay level-headed and keep doing what he does. We're gonna keep saying we support him, he's gonna keep getting better.

"That's just going to probably be the process of how this plays out."

Unlike Ball and Markkanen, both top seven draft picks last June, Kuzma was selected late in the first round.

Consistency has been one of Kuzma's best attributes. He has reached double figures in scoring in all 10 games this month with four double-doubles.

Markkanen has been steady as well, reaching double figures in scoring in 13 of 14 games and producing four double-doubles this season.

"He's very low maintenance," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg told the Chicago Tribune on Sunday. "For a guy who has only been in the States for a year and a 20-year-old kid, the way he picks things up shows he has a tremendous basketball IQ."

The game will also feature the latest matchup between twin brothers Brook Lopez of the Lakers and Robin Lopez of the Bulls.

Robin has never come close to averaging more points than Brook in any of their previous nine seasons in the NBA, but Robin has closed the gap significantly this season.

Robin comes in averaging 13.3 points after never averaging more than 11.3 for a season.

Brook is averaging 15.4 points, down from his career average of 18.5.

They last faced off on April 8, when Robin played for the Bulls and Brook for the Brooklyn Nets. Robin finished with 16 points and eight rebounds and Brook had 13 points and five rebounds in a 107-106 victory by the Nets.

Updated November 20, 2017

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