Clippers to cap solid road trip against Bulls
The Los Angeles Clippers, with some much-needed victories in hand, will conclude their cross-country road trip Friday with a game at the Chicago Bulls, who have lost 11 of 12 while in a search of an identity.
The Clippers' recent struggles do not go as deep as the Bulls' woes.
But before winning two of the past three games, Los Angeles stumbled through a five-game losing streak. And with four of those five defeats coming at home, things did not bode well for the current four-game road swing.
The Clippers have been on something of a revival of late, however, winning at San Antonio on Sunday before coming out on top at Miami on Wednesday. Between those games was a defeat at Dallas on Tuesday.
"What we're trying to do is mix the right amount of toughness with the right amount of scoring and see what we come up with," Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said in the Los Angeles Times.
That is Rivers' way of saying that unique player combinations should no longer come as a surprise. Two of his best players -- Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell -- come off the bench but typically are on the court in crunch time during the fourth quarter.
Rookie Jerome Robinson played a season-high 16 minutes Wednesday and scored a career-best eight points. Guard Sindarius Thornwell and center Boban Marjanovic have been known to get extended runs at times.
But like the variety of on-court personnel, the Clippers have experienced varying runs of success and stumbles. They were the top team in the Western Conference as recently as December but now are on the edge of playoff eligibility with All-Star Weekend approaching.
The Bulls are nowhere near playoff eligibility in a season in which just finding an on-court identity has been difficult. Since head coach Fred Hoiberg was fired in early December, the Bulls have changed their approach from a defensive focus to an offensive one. Neither has brought much success.
A recent push toward offense has the Bulls scoring more than 100 points in every game since Jan. 4, but Wednesday's 121-101 defeat to a fellow rebuilding team in the Atlanta Hawks seems to have Chicago at a low point under new head coach Jim Boylen.
"It's the defense we have to figure out," the Bulls' Lauri Markkanen said on NBA.com.
"We have to contest shots better. Obviously, we can score the ball, but we have to get some stops. Obviously, we are trying to push the ball faster, so there are more possessions. We're focusing on offense, so the basics have been slipping. So we have to get back to work and work on defense more."
While the Bulls did make their trade for Carmelo Anthony official this week, he is not expected to suit up in Chicago, with the team reportedly set to either trade him or release him by the Feb. 7 deadline.
Bulls forward Jabari Parker, another potential trade candidate, is day-to-day with a knee injury.
Clippers forward Danilo Gallinari, second on the team with 19.0 points per game, has missed the past three games with back spasms and is listed as day-to-day. Little-used guard Milos Teodosic is also day-to-day with a knee injury, while forward Luc Mbah a Moute continues to be out with a knee issue.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 24, 2019