The Bulls look to bounce back against one of the league's best in the Clippers, tonight. The game tips at 7 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago — until then, here’s what to watch for:
Clippers’ last five (4-1)
Dec. 13 — W at Timberwolves: 124-117
Dec. 11 — W at Raptors: 112-92
Dec. 9 — W at Pacers: 110-99
Dec. 8 — W at Wizards: 135-119
Dec. 6 — L at Bucks: 119-91
Storyline(s) for each team
The Clippers come into this game with perhaps the deepest roster in the NBA — they have everything from top-tier star talent (Kawhi Leonard, Paul George), to specialized secondary options (Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley), to sparkplug role players (Landry Shamet, Montrezl Harrell, Moe Harkless, etc.) They’re 20-7 and own the second-best record in the Western Conference.
Like the Bulls, the Clippers are on the second night of a back-to-back (and the last night of a six-game road trip), so that full assortment of players won’t be in action. Leonard and Shamet have both already been ruled out. Williams and Beverley are questionable, but neither played the team’s game last night in Minnesota.
Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley and JaMychal Green are all questionable to play tonight against Chicago.— Andrew Greif (@AndrewGreif) December 14, 2019
Kawhi is out, as is Landry Shamet.
Whatever squad they field will likely still have an edge over the Bulls, who shot a paltry 27-for-90 from the field in an 83-73 loss to the Hornets on Friday. Jim Boylen was satisfied with the team’s defensive effort after that contest, but against the sixth-rated defense in the NBA, a markedly better offensive showing will be required to stay competitive against Los Angeles. Even without their full cast of characters, stealing this one would represent the Bulls’ best win of the season (for what it’s worth, not a compliment).
Player to watch: Paul George
George is set to suit up, and he’s a must-watch whenever he comes to town. Last night, him and Leonard combined to drop 88 points on the Timberwolves. It looked like a lot of fun:
Bulls fans are familiar with George’s exploits from his time with the Pacers, and he’s only leveled up further since leaving Indiana. Coming off a career year in Oklahoma City in which he finished third in MVP voting, he’s currently averaging 24.6 points on 39.9% 3-point shooting (10.2 attempts), and remains one of the preeminent wing defenders in the league.
The Bulls haven’t had their lack of wing depth truly exposed by a team in a while. Unless Kris Dunn has an all-time defensive performance in him, the Clippers are about as safe a bet as any to exploit that mismatch.
Matchup to watch: Frontcourt rotations
Jim Boylen’s rotations have been scattershot all season, but in the wake of Thad Young requesting more minutes earlier this week, we reached peak randomness last night. Franchise cornerstone Lauri Markkanen played 25 minutes, 34 seconds and at one point sat for nearly 15 consecutive game minutes. Young played 26 minutes, 33 seconds, Wendell Carter 23 minutes, 35 seconds and Daniel Gafford 20 minutes, 18 seconds.
Boylen has often insisted that his goal is to win games while simultaneously developing all the players on his team, and all things considered, the Bulls have a pretty talented frontcourt rotation. But it’s unclear if their minutes being divvied up on a night-to-night basis (and seemingly on-the-fly) is consistent with either of those stated missions.
Against a dynamic Clippers frontcourt, this is worth monitoring. Expect more juggling to ensue.
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