Los Angeles Clippers at Chicago Bulls
5:00 p.m. PST
January 24, 2014
1. What the heck happened against the Bobcats?
Andrew Han, (@andrewthehan): Fourth game on a grueling seven game road-trip. Oh, did you notice no Chris Paul either? In reality what happened was the Clippers basically have seven and a half rotation players, had one of their two viable bigs get into foul trouble and went away from the one player that can consistently facilitate the offense, Blake Griffin. Also, there’s not much to look into the loss. Reminder: don’t be invested in games until March.
Aaron Fischman, (@aaronhartf): The Clippers couldn’t hit a shot in the fourth quarter, the same period in which Griffin scored one point and only attempted three field goals despite going off for 26 points through the first three. In addition, Crawford’s outside shot was off (2-for-8 from three), not unlike the rest of the team who combined to go 4-for-18 from deep. There were also some embarrassing defensive lapses, including the Clippers allowing Chris Douglas-Roberts to float in a third-quarter buzzer beater off an inbounds pass.
Seerat Sohi, (@DamianTrillard): Everything. Lapses in focus, shoddy shooting, forgetful performances from just about every player aside from Blake Griffin. The Clips struggled to get into a groove offensively with Matt Barnes in the starting lineup, but when he and DeAndre Jordan were benched due to foul trouble, their defense suffered equally.
2. The Bulls are 9-2 in their last 11. How have they found success post-Deng trade?
Han: “They have more than enough to win games.” Honestly, does it even matter? Thibodeau has managed to take Nate Robinson last season and D.J. Augustin this year and make them consistent, credible players on NBA teams. I was serious when tweeting post-Deng trade that the Bulls would refuse to tank and that all Bulls fans would weep. Deadly serious.
Fischman: Simply put, Chicago has been playing better on both ends since it dealt Deng to Cleveland. Over the last 11 games, the Bulls’ 94.8 defensive rating ranks second – only behind the league’s best defense, the Indiana Pacers. On offense, Chicago has assisted on a whopping 68.2 percent of its baskets over the same stretch. Mike Dunleavy Jr.’s 20-for-38 from three-point range, Joakim Noah’s beastly rebounding and D.J. Augustin’s accurate long ball haven’t hurt, either; neither has Jimmy Butler’s lockdown defense in extended minutes.
Sohi: Carlos Boozer. Mike Dunleavy. Jimmy Butler. Joakim Noah. What do all of these guys have in common? They aren’t necessarily the best scorers but they are certainly capable. DJ Augustin’s pick-and-roll skill has given the Bulls just the push they need to tread the line of offensive acceptability — they still live and die on defense, and they’ve allowed just 94.8 points per 100 possessions over this stretch.
3. Would you rather have Doc or Thibs as your coach?
Han: Doc Rivers, though it’s exceptionally close. Honestly, I just marvel at Chicago’s ability to remain competitive these past two seasons despite a constant threat of demise. Half of coaching is schemes, which Rivers has shown the ability to transport Thibs’ system to some success. The other half is communication, be it with the players, staff or front office. And Rivers is likely the better communicator.
Fischman: Rivers because both are great coaches, but Rivers has much more head-coaching experience. He also played the game at the highest level, unlike Thibodeau, so he would be more likely to understand my concerns as a player. I know Thibodeau was accumulating assistant-coaching experience for a decade-and-a-half while Rivers was still playing and he possesses a great basketball mind (like Doc), but Rivers seems like he’d be more fun for whom to play. Both would yell at me, though, and not just a little bit.
Sohi: This question is a philosophical one. Do you take a specialist that can bolster a team on one end of the floor or do you take an intelligent, inspiring coach who isn’t necessarily the best technical mind but has a coaching staff full of them? I’ll take the latter, Doc. The fact that he doesn’t run his players into the ground for 48 minutes is just an extra plus.