Los Angeles Clippers (31-16) vs Chicago Bulls (26-19)
12:30 p.m. PST
January 31, 2015
1. True or False: Beating Chicago today would be the Clippers’ biggest and most important win of the season.
Kaveh Jam (@kavehsroom): False. I’ll concede it could be their biggest win of the season — which really isn’t saying much. I don’t see the Bulls on par with the Cavs in the East, let alone the Warriors, Spurs, or Thunder in their own conference. It surely won’t be their most important win. I can’t claim with conviction any win in the regular season to be that critical from the Clippers standpoint.
Brandon Tomyoy (@dingyu): False. I went over some of this in Wednesday’s Last Call vs. Indiana, and my general feeling on this is that the Clippers have nothing left to prove in terms of wins and losses in the regular season. They’ve won over 60% of their regular season games since the triumvirate of Blake, Chris, and DJ was formed. What matters most now isn’t who they beat in January, but how they’ll fare in the postseason, where even then the bottom line is how far they can go.
Aaron Williams (@aaronsmarter): False. As improved as the Bulls are… They are not one of those teams you really have to be afraid of. One might even consider them something of an equivalent to Clippers East, unfortunately. They’ve been riddled with injuries to key players like Rose and Hinrich, they don’t have a whole lot of depth, and no one really expects them to contend with this roster and this coach. A big win would be against the likes of the Thunder, the Spurs, the Cavs, or of course, the dreaded Golden State Warriors.
2. Who’s a bigger All-Star Game snub: Pau Gasol or DeAndre Jordan?
Jam: Pau, although there is a case to be made for both. Gasol is still a special player in the post and he shoulders much responsibility in the Bulls offense. The criteria for qualifying as an All-Star is blurred and confusing. Regardless of what that definition is, both DeAndre and Pau have both been negatively impacted with the selections trending primarily toward guards and slashers — a point Gasol himself brought up recently.
Tomyoy: Why can’t they both be major snubs? A great case can be made for both players to be on the All-Star roster, with Pau putting up another fine season and DeAndre continuing to improve his importance to his team in Blake’s absence. If anything, All-Star rosters need to be expanded to 15, and even though that won’t end All-Star snubbing altogether, it will at least get more players deserving of all-star nods to the game. Some might say this waters down what it means to be an all star, but the history shows that the game has included far more questionable additions than Pau or DeAndre ever will be.
Williams: Pau, if only down to tenure. DJ is an electrifying player, to be certain, but still largely unproven in the grand scheme of basketball history so far. Also, he is overshadowed to some degree by Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, who don’t just steal the spotlight, but are usually given at least a percentage of the spotlight given to DJ by his own ridiculous highlight plays by virtue of assisting him on the majority of. Besides, most fans I would think feel a conditioned sense of dread whenever he’s on a basketball court… could you imagine Coach Lue going to a hacking strategy in the last five minutes of the All-Star Game!?
3. Speaking of All-Stars, how does this season by CP3 compare to his others as a Clipper so far?
Jam: I lean toward it being one of, if not the best, season he’s had as a Clipper. I don’t think we’ll ever see New Orleans Chris Paul but that’s okay. The tricky thing is, on the surface, his numbers are trending slightly down in comparison to his other Clipper campaigns. Judging him in the context of Blake Griffin’s absence and early season struggles that have forced him into a score-first point guard, puts his season into better perspective. The epitome of a Chris Paul game might not be 15 assists. If he’s forced his imprint into every facet of the game despite struggling in some aspect, then it’s that improvisation and flair for winning that continues to set him apart. He can still grab a moment by the throat, and for a Clipper team that has shown vulnerability this season, Paul’s vintage modus operandi can single-handedly flip a game on its heels.
Tomyoy: He’s been better in any season in Los Angeles than his last two years in New Orleans, and yet, his percentages are down, his assists are down, and his turnovers are up compared to his previous years in a Clipper uniform. That said, he’s also playing less minutes than his other years with the team, so when looking at him on a per 36 scale, he’s actually scoring more in his time on the court this season while averaging around the same amount of assists. He also remains in the top 10 in the league in many categories this season, including Assists, Steals, and Player Efficiency Rating. The early going might have been rough with the finger and wrist injuries, but overall, it’s been another fine season for Chris Paul.
Williams: There is a lot more focus on Chris, as he’s finally crested the hill, so to speak. He’s 30, he’s presided over two consecutive playoff meltdowns under the current Doc Rivers regime, and with Griffin out for so long, he’s got to take the reins to get this limited roster through a rough patch of season with no one else to bear the load. Sure, he can get a lot out of JJ Redick and DJ for the time being, but they aren’t exactly pillars of the Clippers’ offense, so the burden lands squarely on his shoulders. I like what I’ve seen so far, but he’s cracked under the pressure before. I hope he’s learned enough to hold it together for one more campaign, because it could be his last as a Clipper.