Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
When: 12:30 PM Pacific Time
How to Watch: Fox Sports West, AM 570 Radio
Projected Starting Lineups:
Bulls: Jerian Grant, Zach LaVine, Justin Holiday, Bobby Portis, Robin Lopez
Clippers: Milos Teodosic, Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, DeAndre Jordan
Bulls: Kris Dunn Out (Concussion), Cameron Payne Out (Foot), Tony Allen Out (Knee), Lauri Markkanen Out (Personal)
Clippers: Austin Rivers Out (Ankle), Patrick Beverley Out (Knee), Jawun Evans Out (Abdominal Strain)
The Big Picture:
The Clippers are completely up in the air right now. They sit at 25-25, just a game back of the Nuggets for 8th seed in the Western Conference. However, trade rumors are swirling around almost every major player on their roster, and players might get traded any hour. As is, the Clippers’ lineup actually looks quite formidable. Avery Bradley is having a down season, yes, but his perimeter defense will still help reinforce what has been shaky stopping power out of the backcourt in recent weeks. Meanwhile, Tobias Harris doesn’t possess the sheer starpower and versatile game of Blake Griffin, but his outside shooting and ability to switch a couple positions on defense make him a good pairing with Danilo Gallinari and DeAndre Jordan. It will be interesting to see how the Clippers’ offense runs with two crucial new ingredients thrown into the mix. The rotations will be completely shaken up, and guys like Wes Johnson, Sam Dekker, and Sindarius Thornwell are all at the risk of falling out of the rotation. Doc Rivers will be watching carefully to see how the new players pair up with the old standbys, and what lineups seem to be working well or poorly together.
The Bulls have had a very weird season. They started out as the worst team in the NBA with a 3-20 record, only to go on a tear when Nikola Mirotic returned. In recent weeks, their play has fallen off again, and now they are in full on tank mode once more. Mirotic is gone, replaced by Omer Asik, Tony Allen, and Jameer Nelson, with only Nelson as a likely rotation player. Lauri Markkanen, the stud rookie in the 2017 draft, is out due to the birth of his first child, while Kris Dunn has a concussion and will miss a couple more games as well. Zach LaVine finally returned a couple weeks ago, but he hasn’t played well for the most part, and is still struggling to find his footing. The Bulls do have competent NBA players in their starting lineup, but no real stars or scary scoring threats, especially with LaVine being off. Their bench is quite bad, and it will only be even worse with Mirotic gone.
- Lou Williams’ Minutes: The other intriguing note on the arrival of Avery Bradley is that it might start to limit Lou Williams’ minutes again. He’s been playing entire halves after being subbed in around the 6 minute mark of the 1st and 3rd quarters, and Bradley’s presence means he will no longer have to be such a workhorse. He will still get a ton of minutes, of course, but maybe a few less per game than he has the past month since Austin Rivers went down.
- Wes, Sam, or Sindarius?: Tobias Harris can play the three or the four, and Avery Bradley can at least semi-credibly guard the one, two, and three, so all the players previously getting minutes at those positions are at risk of losing playing time. I think Tyrone Wallace is safe due to his fantastic play as of late, but the three mentioned above might all need to prove to Doc once again that they belong in this new rotation. I’d guess that Wes is the safest: while his offense is mostly disastrous, his help defense can be very useful, and he’s also the best shooter of the three (isn’t that a scary thought?). Thornwell will probably his spot in the rotation, though he might get spot minutes as a defensive stopper and energy. Dekker will probably hang in with a handful of minutes, but his leash might be even shorter than usual. We will see.
- Trade Rumors: A lot of NBA players don’t play as well (or as hard) when they are getting mentioned in trade rumors all the time. Since several of the best Clippers’ players are clearly on the market, it will be interesting to see how they play against the Bulls. Maybe they want to prove to the Clippers they are worth keeping, or maybe they want to show off to other teams that they are good enough to make a trade for. Either way, I don’t think there will be much sulking in this one, especially considering how hard this roster has played all season.
For the Bulls’ fan perspective, check out Blog a Bull. This article will also serve as the game thread, so comment below!