This game scares me. The Clippers haven't been above .500 in over 50 days, and when they had a chance to get there last Saturday, they didn't show up. The Bulls aren't 'NBA Champion' good, but at 26-19 they may be 'Top Team in the East' good (fwiw). The good news for the Clippers is that the Bulls are bad against the Western Conference (6-11) and worse on the road (6-13). The bad news is that the Bulls are the type of team that can really give the Clippers fits. They'll spread the floor, penetrate, and kick to shooters. This could potentially be one of those games where the Clippers are outscored by 20+ from the three point line. Although the Bulls don't generally take a lot of threes (16 per game), they shoot it well (36%): Kirk Hinrich, Andres Nocioni and Ben Gordon all shoot better than 38% out there.
Gordon has recently been re-inserted into the starting lineup, a major boost for Corey Maggette's Sixth Man Campaign if he stays there. Gordon is one of the most amazing scorers in the league right now, and can make almost anything if he gets hot. In a lineup that features Hinrich at the 1, Gordon at the 2 and Luol Deng at the 3, it will be hard for the Clippers to hide Sam Cassell on D. Sam will have to try to stay in front of Hinrich, while Ross will try to shutdown Gordon and Cat will draw Deng. (QRoss may be better equipped to guard Gordon than any player in the league.) If Hinrich is torching Sam, MDSr will have to go to Livingston early. But as noted in my earlier post, the Clippers don't really have to worry too much about guarding the Bulls bigs, though they'd be wise to block them out on rebounds.
On the other end, Gordon is a defensive liability. He's listed at 6'3", but no one believes that. (Sam is listed at 6'3" also - take a look when they are standing near each other.) The Bulls will probably try to hide him on Ross. The Clippers should go right at him, and let Q flex his newfound offensive muscles.
Ben Wallace sustained a minor knee injury in the Bulls last game against the Heat and is day-to-day. If he can't play, the Bulls will have big trouble trying to defend Brand and Kaman. If he can play, Wallace and PJ Brown should be as good as any pair in the league at containing the Clippers duo.
The Bulls are incredibly well-rested coming into this game. They've had three full days off in the schedule, and are at the very beginning of a 7 game western trip. With 6 more games and 11 days ahead of them, they'll want to win this one. The Clippers are rested as well, having had two days off. But as we've seen, having time to prepare for an opponent has not necessarily been a good thing for the Clippers this season.
In the end, this game will probably come down to a couple of things. (1) Will the Bulls make shots? This is always the issue with perimeter teams. It's not unusual to have an off-night, and those often come on the road. (2) Which Clipper team will show up? The one that played Saturday against Minnesota can't win, but the one that played Sunday in Seattle can't lose.
Blogging for the Bad Guys: Blog-a-Bull