This game honestly doesn’t deserve a real recap. I’m tired, it’s a Friday night, and this was one of the worst games of the season just in terms of the quality of basketball that was played. The Bulls are absolutely horrible, having lost 11 of their past 12 games, with eight of those losses coming by double digits. Their awfulness showed tonight, as they missed tons of easy looks, and failed to capitalize on numerous Clippers’ mistakes. Their few veterans are mostly mediocre, their young talent doesn’t fit together and isn’t all that promising, and they’re being coached by one of the worst head coaches of the modern NBA era in Jim Boylen. All that said, the Bulls nearly won this game tonight.
The Clippers, instead of rising above the Bulls’ squalor, sunk into it, turning the ball over 16 times, allowing 12 offensive rebounds, and giving easy shot after easy shot to the Bulls. They won only through some 4th quarter magic from Lou Williams, who was incredible tonight from start to finish. Tobias Harris assisted him with a “quiet” 29 point, 8 rebound game, and Pat Beverley had the biggest defensive (block on Lauri Markkanen in the post) and offensive (floater to put Clips up 3 with 36 seconds left) plays of the game. It was an ugly, ugly, ugly win for the Clippers, but a win is a win, and they are now tied for 6th in the Western Conference with the Jazz and Spurs.
Sweet, sweet Lou: Lou Williams had a literal performance for the ages tonight, putting together a 31 point, 10 rebound, 10 assist game in just 32 minutes on 9-19 shooting from the field. It was Lou’s first ever triple-double, and the first 30 point triple double off the bench in over 25 years. This was also the Clippers’ only second-ever 30 point triple double, with the other going to Blake Griffin. That’s the kind of territory Lou was in tonight. He penetrated the lane with ease, either drawing fouls or creating easy looks for others. He drained deep threes, including a ridiculous four-point play to give the Clippers the lead in the closing minute of the game. And, perhaps most surprisingly, he hit the glass hard, collecting contested rebounds and pushing the pace to get the Clippers looks in transition. What a game from Lou Williams, who has cemented himself this season as the Clippers’ most important, impactful, irreplaceable player on a night-to-night basis, even though he’s not the “best”.
Tobias Harris with another great game: Miserable night in Dallas aside, Tobias Harris has really stepped up with Danilo Gallinari absent. He was quietly very good tonight too, keeping the Clippers afloat in the first half when they were surrendering baskets to the Bulls nearly every trip down. Tobi had 29 points on 10-15 shooting, nailing 3-6 threes and 6-7 free throws for a typically efficient game. While he did have five costly turnovers, Tobias did his usual thing on the glass, and his steadiness throughout more than made up for the miscues. With Gallo missing some time, and Harris rising to the occasion, he’s probably placed himself as the Clippers’ leading candidate for the All Star Game.
Defensive woes return: Don’t let the 101 points the Bulls scored fool you: the Clippers were really bad defensively tonight. They couldn’t figure out how to stop so simple an action as a pick and pop, as Lauri Markkanen got free time and again for wide open jumpers, especially in the second and third quarters. Fortunately, Markkanen, Kris Dunn, and Chandler Hutchison combined to shoot 13-42 from the field and 5-19 from three, with most of those looks being uncontested. If the Bulls were even slightly hotter tonight, they would have pulled away with a win.
Back to Staples: After their four game away trip, the Clippers will thankfully return to the friendly confines of Staples Center for three consecutive games. Unfortunately, the quality of opponent will be higher, with the tough, energetic Kings, the hot Hawks, and a Lakers team that might have LeBron back on the ticket. They then go on an absolutely brutal six game road swing, including stops in Toronto, Indiana, and Boston. Hopefully Danilo Gallinari will be back sooner than later, because the Clippers will need his play to keep their heads above water in the weeks to come.