Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
When: 5:00 PM PT
How Watch/Listen: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Terance Mann – Rodney McGruder – Paul George – Moe Harkless – Ivica Zubac
Bulls: Tomas Satoranksy – Zach LaVine – Kris Dunn – Lauri Markkanen – Wendell Carter Jr.
Clippers: Landry Shamet Out (Ankle), JaMychal Green Questionable (Tailbone), Kawhi Leonard Out (Knee/Load Management), Pat Beverley Questionable (Concussion), Lou Williams Questionable (Calf)
Bulls: Otto Porter Jr Out (Foot), Cristiano Felicio Out (Wrist), Chandler Hutchinson Doubtful (Shoulder)
The Big Picture
It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Clippers keep winning. They’ve now picked up four victories in a row, all on the road, and sit tied for the 3rd best record in the NBA with a 20-7 mark. Despite dealing with a truly incredible number of injuries to key players, the Clippers have been able to hold on, mostly through the greatness of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. While Kawhi will probably sit out tonight with load management, George will be good to go, and he might put up truly astonishing numbers if Lou Williams and Pat Beverley remain out as well. The Clippers are very, very good even when falling quite short of a healthy roster, making it all that much more exciting to see them in action when they begin to put their roster back on the court.
The Bulls came into the season with real expectations for the first time in years, and many had high hopes for the team (I thought they’d be at least decent). Well, the Bulls might be one of the most disappointing squads in the NBA, piecing together a 9-18 record with some catastrophic losses and no real standout wins. Zach LaVine remains as ball-hoggy as ever with some of the poorest decision-making from a “top” player in recent memory, Otto Porter Jr. has been injured or ineffective all season, and Lauri Markkanen has regressed. The only real bright spot has been the play of second-year stud Wendell Carter Jr., whose advanced defense, solid rebounding, and interior scoring make him an extremely promising young cornerstone. Meanwhile, head coach Jim Boylen presides over the team with idiotic clichés and old-school tactics, making him perhaps the biggest sitting duck coach in the NBA now that David Fizdale has been fired. The Bulls are a mess.
Waiting on Injury Reports: It’s tough to write too much about this game without knowing who the Clippers might be rolling out there. Kawhi is almost assuredly out with load management, and Pat Beverley probably won’t suit up due to his concussion, but Lou Williams could legitimately play and there’s an outside chance JaMychal Green might as well. If all those guys are out than the starting lineup will probably be the one listed above. If not, one if not both of Green and Lou could start this one over Mann or McGruder.
Paul George Ascendant: After putting together an MVP-worthy campaign last season, Paul George might be even better this season. He’s taking more threes (on a per-minute basis), hitting them at a higher rate, and scoring more, all while playing extremely good defense. His rebounds and assists are slightly down from last season while turnovers are up, but he hasn’t missed a beat thus far and looks every bit like an All-NBA 1st or 2nd Team member. The last game Kawhi sat out, PG put up 36, 9, and 5, and with both Lou and Pat potentially joining Kawhi on the sidelines tonight George could put up a ridiculous statline. He could also be exhausted from last night’s contest and fall short, but it seems like a night George will go off, especially since the Bulls have nobody to check him.
Containing Zach LaVine: While LaVine is a horrid decision-maker and one of the worst defensive players in the NBA, he’s an explosive scorer who can win games single-handedly. The Clippers might be down some of their best perimeter defenders today, but should still have George, Moe Harkless, and Rodney McGruder to throw at LaVine. If they can keep him under control, the rest of the Bulls’ lineup poses very little threat offensively. Hold LaVine to under 25 points and this is likely a Clippers win.
Road Weary: Tonight concludes a lengthy six-game road trip for the Clippers, including a punishing five-in-seven game stint. Combine that with the injuries and resulting heavy minutes for the healthy guys, and we will likely see some very tired legs for the Clippers tonight. With the Clippers so tired and short-handed, it would be interesting if Doc unleashed some of the younger guys tonight, as they are much fresher. I wouldn’t predict lots of minutes for Jerome Robinson or Terance Mann, much less Mfiondu Kabengele and Johnathan Motley, but those guys could all get the call tonight, especially if the Clippers get in a hole early.
Check back in later tonight for the game thread, and keep tuned for any injury updates!
Update: Kawhi Leonard is out for today’s game as is Landry Shamet, while Lou Williams, Pat Beverley, and JaMychal Green are all questionable.