The Clippers are coming off a disappointing collapse against the Warriors last night, and are now just 6-4 after a 4-1 start. Next up, is a game against the Chicago Bulls, who are just 4-6 and mired in injuries. Check out the full preview of the Clippers’ game against the Bulls below.
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
When: 1:00 PM PT
How to Watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups
Bulls: Coby White – Zach LaVine – Patrick Williams – Thaddeus Young – Wendell Carter Jr.
Clippers: Patrick Beverley – Paul George – Kawhi Leonard – Nicolas Batum – Ivica zubac
Bulls: Otto Porter Jr. Questionable (Back spasms), Lauri Markkanen Out (COVID-19 protocols) Tomas Satoransky Out (COVID-19), Chandler Hutchison Out (COVID-19 protocols), Ryan Arcidiacono Out (COVID-19 protocols)
The Clippers have been a team of tremendous highs and awful lows thus far this season. They’ve defeated championship contenders such as the Lakers, Nuggets, and Phoenix, suffered one of the worst defeats in NBA history to the Mavs, and have now gone through a three game scuffle in which they’ve lost to a mediocre Spurs squad, eked out a win over Golden State, and then blew a second-half 22 point lead to that same Warriors squad. In short, it’s been a highly frustrating start to the season for fans, and, presumably, the team itself.
The consistencies stretch from quarter to quarter as well. The Clippers might be whipping the ball around the court and playing energetic and active defense one quarter, and then isolating in stagnation and giving up easy switches in the next. This is an odd season, with few or no fans, baseball series type runs against teams, and players missing time with COVID-19 or exposure, but that doesn’t make the frustrations any less. Now, other teams have suffered similarly, so the Clippers are doing fine overall in the standings, but it would be nice if they could muster some consistency for more than a half of basketball at a time.
The Bulls are only 4-6, 12th in the Eastern Conference, but its hard to view their first 10 games as anything but a positive. After a couple years under the conservative, authoritarian, and bumbling Jim Boylen, the Bulls and their fans feel freed with new head coach Billy Donovan. The Bulls are playing much more entertaining basketball this year, and have the appearance of a modern NBA team. Their defense is still pretty bad, but their young guys have played well, and veterans such as Otto Porter Jr. have also appeared rejuvenated this season.
Unfortunately, they’ve been hit by the COVID-19 bug, with Hutchison and Satoransky testing positive, and Arcidiacono and Markkanen being put into testing protocols as a result. With Porter also leaving Friday’s game early with back spasms, it’s very possible that the Bulls will be extremely short-handed for this one. The Clippers have not faced any team ravaged by COVID protocols yet, but with the NBA getting more cases every day, this game against the Bulls is a good preview of what to expect.
Slowing LaVine: While the Bulls have some talented youngsters and competent veterans, the main guy on their team to fear is Zach LaVine, who is averaging just over 26 points per game this season on solid efficiency. LaVine has been cold from deep, but when he gets hot from there he scorches, and he’s ben getting to the line more as well. While he’s been playmaking better this year, he’s a scorer at heart, and forcing him to make plays for others is the best way to slow him down. The Clippers will presumably give him lots of looks this game, with Beverley, George, and Leonard all likely to get extended time on him. Doubling or trapping LaVine is also an option, as the Bulls don’t have great shooting around him outside of Coby White, especially if Porter is out. LaVine is good, and he’s someone who can beat a superior team if he’s allowed to get hot.
Getting Lou Going: Lou Williams has had a weird start to his season. Despite some complaints about sloppy passing, his assist to turnover ratio is nearly 3:1, which is excellent. And while his defense hasn’t been good, he’s been giving a lot of effort on that end, and has been merely a part of some defensive breakdowns rather than the root cause. Even his base shooting splits are ok. No, the issue for Lou this year is that he’s just not scoring very much, because he’s not shooting a lot. He’s taking only 8.1 shots per game, compared to 14.4 last season, and is also getting to the line a lot less. His minutes have been cut, but not nearly to the same extent – he just doesn’t have the ball in his hands nearly as much. While bringing in Luke Kennard ran some risk of duplicative skillsets, there should be plenty of ways to integrate both guys into the bench offense. But that really hasn’t happened, with the result that the bench has not only been a tire fire on defense, but has also frequently struggled on offense. The easiest way to get the bench going is to put the ball in Lou’s hands and let him run pick and roll. Maybe it’s not sustainable long-term, but whatever the bench is doing right now is not working.
Zu Struggling: If Lou has been quiet, Ivica Zubac has been flat-out bad for much of this season. While his rebonding has ticked up a bit in the past week, he’s still rebounding at half the rate he was last season. While he’s certainly not the cause of the second units’ weakness on defense, he’s also not really helping a ton, and has been absolutely schooled by backup centers such as Eric Paschall and Derrick Favors. On offense, his field goal percentage is shockingly high – it feels like he’s been very soft, going for hooks and little flip shots rather than finishing strong. He’s scoring less, and has an increased turnover rate due to numerous dropped passes. Coming off the bench warrants an adjustment, but it shouldn’t be this bad, and he needs to get right quickly.
Well, that’s about it for this game preview of the Clippers against the Bulls. Comment on the game below!