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LA Clippers vs. Chicago Bulls Preview: Make Sure the Tank is Intact

Game Information:

Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois

When: 5:00 PM PT

How to Watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, NBCH

Projected Starting Lineups:

Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Tobias Harris, Marcin Gortat

Bulls: Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Chandler Hutchison, Robin Lopez

Injuries:

Clippers: Luc Mbah a Moute (Knee) – OUT, Danilo Gallinari (Back) – OUT

Bulls: Jabari Parker (Knee) – Probable, Wendell Carter Jr. (Thumb) – OUT

The Big Picture

The Clippers have been a fairly inconsistent team as of late. They either look like the early season, first-place team we grew to love, or the team that people expected them to be — middling, without a go-to scorer and inconsistent. They are 4-6 in their last ten, and in that span, they only have one win that seems truly “impressive,” a 103-95 win against the Spurs in San Antonio. However, the Clips are showing signs in their last three games that after a five-game losing streak — their longest of the season — life is coming back.

Despite a losing effort against the Mavericks Tuesday night, the Clips looked solid, but just couldn’t knock down jumpers. Despite the invisibility of the Clippers’ leading scorer Tobias Harris (1-for-9 from the field, nine points), it still was a close game throughout and L.A. had multiple opportunities to take the game. After smacking the Heat on the second night of a back-to-back in Miami, the Clippers look to be stabilizing, even if they are missing their second-leading scorer in Danilo Gallinari. This game is a must-win — not because of any true playoff implications (with a loss they would still be a half game up on the ninth seed Lakers) but because of the talent (and record) disparity between the two teams.

The Clippers need to take care of business Friday night, simple as that. L.A. does have a tendency to play down to their competition, then try to right the ship in the third and fourth quarters. A nice 20-point dub would do wonders for starters’ rest purposes, playing time for guys like Jerome Robinson, Johnathan Motley and Sindarius Thornwell, and for the psyche of this team that has two straight home games against beatable teams in the Kings and Hawks.

The Antagonist

The Chicago Bulls are fully tanking right now. I’m honestly surprised they aren’t tanking harder. At 11-37, they sit 13th in the Eastern Conference, 2.5 games ahead of the Cavaliers. They do have a decent amount of talent on this roster in high-flying Zach Lavine, stud second-year forward Lauri Markannen and crazy-eyes Bobby Portis, so I guess it’s not too surprising that they have stolen some games from teams.

This team has not been without drama this season, as they fired head coach Fred Hoiberg early in the season and replaced him with Jim Boylen — who subsequently made his team run two-a-day practices and caused rifts with players. Boylen apparently didn’t get the message that this isn’t college and these players play an 82-game schedule with heavy travel. The Bulls have not responded well to his coaching of the squad, but like any franchise that’s slowly burning, the franchise decided to extend his contract to 2020, because hey, why not.

The Bulls are led by Lavine’s 22.9 points per game and Markkanen’s 17.2. Jabari Parker looks as though he will be available for this game, and has recently been back in the rotation after being benched (nice $20 million investment). He leads the bench in scoring at 14.6 points a game. Kris Dunn is a solid PG averaging 12 points, four rebounds and six assists a game. The team is definitely missing rookie center Wendell Carter Jr.’s presence, as Robin Lopez has taken the bulk of the starting center minutes. This is a Bulls team that certainly doesn’t have its eyes on any success this season — an opportunity for L.A. to come into the Windy City and take a game. Don’t let it be a trap.

Notes

Clippers interested in Robin Lopez?: As Jovan Buha of The Athletic reported earlier this week, the Clippers inquired about Robin Lopez’s services. Although the Clips do need some interior help, and the Bulls would probably be willing to give up Lopez for nothing — talks have stalled.

Avery Bradley doing OK: Hey, look who is finally playing somewhat normally. With the trade deadline less than two weeks away, AB is playing like the guy the Clips signed this offseason, and the guy who could be involved in some sort of trade package — instead of the over-the-hill, inconsistent player he’s been this whole season. Guy’s shooting 42.3 percent from three over his last five and is starting to play within his game — open midrange, wide open three, good defense, solid distributor. Keep doing this AB.

Mike Scott out of the rotation: Doc is finally switching up the rotations a bit after fans had been calling for it basically all season. Sadly, this has come with a lack of play for Mike Scott, who has posted two DP-CD’s in the last three games. Scott’s shot has fallen off a cliff since shooting 55.6 percent from three in October and 40.8 percent in November. Clips fans like Scott as a player but if he isn’t shooting consistently, it’s probably better that guys like Motley and JRob get burn.

Jerry West is a genius: Who would have thought to trade for a two-way player this offseason? In the first ever two-way trade, the Clips got Johnathan Motley, who scored 26 points in an NBA game last season with the Mavs and thus far has been impressing with L.A. They gave up a Goodwill clothing rack for him, and so far he is averaging 5.3 ppg on 51.4 percent shooting in only 7.2 minutes. He’s been contributing solid minutes and getting buckets. Jerry West is a miracle worker.

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