The Bulls and Clippers meet in Chicago tonight in a battle between two teams who have suffered through numerous point guard injuries this season. The Bulls’ problems have been covered in detail here and elsewhere, while the Clippers has gone rather unreported of late.
Since losing Chris Paul, the Clippers’ have lost Darren Collison – who returns from a sprained left big toe tonight – and even acquired Hedo Turkoglu to fill in as point forward with predictably bad results.
Los Angeles comes into the game seeking to avoid back-to-back defeats for the first time since losing Paul to a sprained right shoulder having lost 95-91 in Charlotte.
For the Bulls, Carlos Boozer is expected to return from his one-game absence while Kirk Hinrich will likely sit out again nursing a hamstring injury.
With Chris Paul out, the Clippers’ offense has foundered, failing to score 93 points in two of their last three games. Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford, whom Tom Thibodeau singled out for praise on Friday, will take up the brunt of the scoring again, resulting in a pair of key match-ups tonight.
Joakim Noah will seek to extend his career-best 14-game streak of double-doubles, the longest such streak by a Bull since Dennis Rodman racked up 43 consecutive double-doubles in the 1997-98 season. His box score stuffing has been vital to the Bulls since trading Luol Deng, averaging 14.1 points, 15.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.0 blocks per game since the trade.
Scoring is up across the board since the trade, with six players averaging double-digit scoring allowing the Bulls to take the court with a balanced offense to go with their trademark suffocating defense.
PG: D.J. Augustin: 5th season. 13.0 points per game, 6.1 assists per game.
SG: Jimmy Butler: 3rd season. 12.2 points per game, 4.5 rebounds per game.
SF: Mike Dunleavy: 11th season. 11.1 points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game.
PF: Carlos Boozer: 11th season. 14.9 points per game, 8.5 rebounds per game.
C: Joakim Noah: 6th season. 11.7 points per game, 11.4 rebounds per game.
Los Angeles Clippers
PG: Darren Collison: 4th season. 9.3 points per game, 3.0 assists per game.
SG: J.J. Redick: 7th season. 16.3 points per game, 2.2 rebounds per game.
SF: Matt Barnes: 10th season. 7.1 points per game, 4.2 rebounds per game.
PF: Blake Griffin: 3rd season. 22.6 points per game, 10.0 rebounds per game.
C: DeAndre Jordan: 5th season. 9.6 points per game, 13.6 rebounds per game.
Key Match-up: Blake Griffin/DeAndre Jordan vs Taj Gibson/Joakim Noah
It would be too difficult to pick just one of these frontcourt match-ups, but with Taj Gibson the Bulls de-facto power forward to close out games, either he or Noah will be tasked with handling Blake Griffin. Griffin has scored 51 points to go with 22 rebounds in his last two games against the Bulls, the last of which was a 39-point blowout as the shell-shocked Bulls played their first full game without Derrick Rose. As for the second half of this match-up, DeAndre Jordan has become one of the premier rebounders and shot-blockers in the league this season as he averages as 13.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game – both career highs. Joakim Noah will have his work cut out for him to not only continue his own double-double streak but prevent Jordan from owning the glass. With both teams devoid of their best point guards, this game could be won – and lost – in the trenches.