Chicago let an 18-point lead slip away against the Suns. They let Phoenix score 31 in the 4th quarter to send the game into overtime. Ultimately the Bulls righted the ship in the extra period, and came out of it winners, but it wasn’t pretty. They almost blew a game in which they had a huge lead, but they started the circus road trip with a win. Unfortunately for the Bulls, it only gets tougher tonight in Los Angeles, who has won four straight.
The Clippers are 5th in offensive rating (108.9) and 9th in defensive rating (100.5). They have beaten the Heat (handily), Hawks, Spurs (by 22) and Grizzlies already this season. They have, however, lost to the Warriors and Cavs. So that’s a thinker.
Los Angeles is also 2nd in effective field goal percentage (.541) and 5th in free throws per field goal attempt (.253). By almost all offensive metrics, the Clippers are very good. And that’s why they’ve been winning so many games, against very good opponents.
They have the early season favorite for Sixth Man of the Year, Jamal Crawford, who has been playing out of his mind. He’s averaging 20.5 points per game on 51.4 percent shooting from the field and 42.2 from beyond the arc. That equates to a 66.6 true shooting percentage. Crawford is averaging 1.1 assists as well! OK that stat is terrible, but Chris Paul’s job is to pass. Crawford has a 119 offensive rating, only to be outdone by CP3’s 131 O-rating.
The Clippers are 28th in turnover percentage this year though. Chicago forced Phoenix to turn it over 15 times. Phoenix is the 2nd best team when it comes to turnover percentage (.118). And after giving up 20 offensive rebounds to the Suns, Chicago faces the 22nd best offensive rebounding team.
The Bulls have alternated wins and losses for most of this season, so going by that blueprint, tonight will be a loss. They are going to have to put in a much better effort for 48 minutes. Chicago can’t afford to give up 20 offensive rebounds to any team really, but especially a team as good as the Clips.
Right now the Clippers look like championship contenders. The Bulls obviously are missing a huge piece. But their defense the last two games has not been good. The last two times out the Bulls’ defensive rating has been 102.9 against Phoenix and 111.0 against Boston. This has to be a bounce-back game for the defense. If not, that win-loss pattern is going to continue.