The Back Story (Clippers lead the season series 1-0):
|Clippers 121, Bulls 82
The Big Picture:
Wednesday in Charlotte the Clippers had there first really disappointing result since Chris Paul separated his shoulder, losing to the Bobcats in a very winnable game. That leaves them 2-2 on this seven game road trip, with two of the tougher games coming back-to-back tonight in Chicago and tomorrow in Toronto. The Clippers really, really need to hit some jumpers against the Bulls, something they couldn't do against the Bobcats. Point guard Darren Collison has a sprained big toe and Doc Rivers seemed intent on resting him some after Wednesday's loss, but Collison seems to think he'll be better by tonight and wants to play, so stay tuned. If Collison can't go, the Clippers will be paper thin at the point, with the task falling to Darius Morris (on his second 10 day contract and likely headed for the waiver wire soon) and Jamal Crawford (a good ball-handler, but a shooting guard by nature). Blake Griffin has been on a tear, but he'll have to earn his points tonight against the likes of Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah.
The Bulls have won nine of their last eleven, most of those coming after they traded Luol Deng in a blatant salary dump, so go figure. Tom Thibodeau's teams will always play great defense, pretty much no matter who he puts out there on the floor, and that's exactly what they've been doing. Not all of those wins have been super-impressive -- they need overtime to beat the Lakers and three overtimes to beat the Magic, two of the worst teams around right now, but still, 9-2 in January is pretty darn good. Joakim Noah has been doing everything since Deng left, rebounding, scoring, and facilitating the offense from the high post. But both Kirk Hinrich and Carlos Boozer pulled hamstrings recently, and it has left the team paper thin. Hinrich is not expected back for this game, but Boozer could yet play.
- Comparison of key metrics. Rarely do you see a team that is elite on one side of the ball (the second best defense in the league) and truly dreadful on the other side of the ball (the 28th rated offense). That's the Bulls.
- Short preview. I was out until about 2:00 AM Thursday night at a show, and I have appointments Friday morning, so apologies, but it's going to be a short preview. Talk amongst yourselves. Tell each other what you need to know about the Bulls. I'll be back in the afternoon to check in. I'm sure you can entertain yourselves for a bit. Talk about the weather. I hear it's cold in Chicago.
- Thibodeau vs. Rivers. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is credited as being the architect of the strong side pressure defense schemes that Rivers ran in Boston and is trying to implement with the Clippers. Thibodeau of course runs them himself with the Bulls, now in his fourth season as head coach. The Clippers seem to be getting, at least a bit at this point.
- Bulls surging. From shortly after Derrick Rose was lost for the season until just before Christmas, the Bulls were terrible; like worst team in the NBA bad. The Clippers beat them by 39 during that stretch. However, in the last 16 games, they're 12-4. And the last nine of those games which include seven wins have come after they made a blatant money-saving trade, sending Luol Deng to Cleveland for Andrew Bynum who they then waived. So that's two All Stars that are no longer with them, plus they're currently playing without Kirk Hinrich and Carlos Boozer, and yet they're playing their best basketball. Want to know how they're doing it? So do I, but I don't know. The fact that Joakim Noah is averaging 14 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in January has a lot to do with it. Holy crap -- 14/15/5 is pretty amazing.
- Noah and Jordan. The centers in this game are both on rebounding tears. Basically, if anyone other than Noah or Jordan gets a rebound tonight, it's going to be surprising.
- Point guard plague. The rash of point guard injuries in the NBA this season has hit the Bulls and Clippers as hard as anyone. Rose is out for the season, the second consecutive season he's missed. Now his backup, Kirk Hinrich, is out with a hamstring injury. The Clippers have been without Chris Paul for three weeks and will be without him for three more weeks, and his backup, Darren Collison, is nursing a sprained big toe and may not play tonight. All of which means that this game could feature two starting point guards who weren't in the league on opening day (D.J. Augustine and Darius Morris).
- Three point shooting. The Bulls are 27th in the NBA in three point attempts per game. However, Mike Dunleavy and D.J. Augustine (the new starter at point guard) are both shooting over 40% from deep, so you definitely have to keep close to them.
- Clippers-Bulls recent history. The Clippers have had very good success against Chicago over the last dozen seasons or so. In their last 26 meeting, the Clippers are 19-7, they swept both games last season and they won easily in LA in November.
- Connections. Jamal Crawford played his first four seasons in Chicago. Tom Thibodeau was an assistant for Doc Rivers for many seasons in Boston. Mike Dunleavy Jr. of the Bulls is the son of former Clippers head coach of the same name.
- Get the Chicago perspective at Blog a Bull.
- Shakespearean reference:
Tempest -- Act III, Scene 3 -- Gonzalo
Faith, sir, you need not fear. When we were boys,
Who would believe that there were mountaineers
Dew-lapp'd like bulls, whose throats had hanging at 'em
Wallets of flesh? or that there were such men
Whose heads stood in their breasts? which now we find
Each putter-out of five for one will bring us
Good warrant of.