20 January 2010
The Bulls face the 18-22 Los Angeles Clippers on the second game of their extended road trip. It's going to be another tough matchup for them. Last game, the Warriors were able to beat the Bulls by forcing the Bulls to play the Warriors' style of play. It's not that the Bulls were outmatched, they just simply could not keep up, and thus couldn't execute in their own right.
The Clippers, on the other hand, do outmatch the Bulls. Chris Kaman is going to be an incredibly tough matchup for Joakim Noah. He's averaging 20.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game. He shoots at a high percentage is very fundamentally sound in the post. What always seems to happen against gifted scoring big-men when Joakim Noah guards them is that he does not slow them down at all. He simply isn't big enough nor defensively sound enough quite yet to stop a scorer in his tracks. That's not to say that Joakim probably won't grab 16 rebounds of his own, but that doesn't mean that he'll be able to stop Kaman from getting his. The one hope the Bulls have in containing Kaman is that he recently came off a four game stint with a bad back, so hopefully that bad back is still hindering him a bit.
On top of that, the Clippers have another imposing big-man in Marcus Camby. The man is 35 years old yet continues to nearly average a double-double with 8.2 points and 11.6 rebounds, with 2.1 blocks per game to boot. That puts him third in the league in rebounding right behind our boy Joakim Noah. That also puts him at number 7 in the league in blocked shots. Basically, he is a defensive juggernaut. Joakim is going to have a really really tough time today with both Camby and Kaman crashing the glass.
I don't see how Taj or Tyrus or going to have any effect whatsoever in slowing down Camby. That's sad to say considering that they are both over a decade younger than him. I'm also hoping Brad Miller sees limited action tonight. He has been absolutely atrocious lately. I don't think there's any other word to describe his play. Maybe pathetic. Imagine if Tyrus and Brad Miller were our best options to start right now based on how they're playing currently. I can picture Kaman and Camby high-fiving themselves with drool rolling down their chins as soon as they take a look at the announced starters if that were the case. I guess we should be thankful that it isn't the case.
Besides the big-men, the Clippers are also gifted around the perimeter. Baron Davis can be as good as anyone in the league when he wants to be, and when he's healthy. Davis was sick on Tuesday and didn't practice, but he supposedly is slated to play tonight. Maybe he caught the same thing as Kirk and Salmons. If he plays, Derrick is going to have his hands full guarding Baron, who can drain it from anywhere anytime. He's also quick, even though he's constantly hampered by injuries. The key is for Derrick to be aggressive and attack Davis all four quarters. As the game goes on, Baron should eventually give up on defense as he tends to do, and there's no way he should be even close to keeping up with Derrick Rose by the time the 4th quarter roles around. It's all up to Derrick to maintain that aggressive mindset instead of that annoying passiveness that he exhibited against a pion like Stephen Curry.
Also, Eric Gordon is having a tremendous sophomore season. Averaging 17.1 points per game. He doesn't really pass or rebound, but he's a good spot-up shooter and create off the dribble with ease. He's also shooting at very impressive 47% from the field, which I found to be pretty surprising for a sophomore on the Clippers. He's learned how to shoot the 3-point shot, especially in the Staple Center, so I see him chucking a bunch tonight. If Kirk is back in the line-up, he should do a nice job containing Gordon, since Gordon isn't really taller than him, although he is more athletic. If John Salmons has recovered from his stomach ailment and ends up playing tonight, he will have no excuse for letting the smaller Eric Gordon get the best of him on offense when he's in the game.
Hopefully Kirk and Salmons are healthy. We can't afford anybody to be unavailable on this road trip in any game whatsoever. As seen last game, we really do need Kirk's defense, and I guess Salmons's ability to spread the court (as ridiculous as that sounds). Also, hopefully we get a good shooting effort from Luol Deng, since I don't foresee us getting much inside with Kaman and Camby clogging the lanes. This is a game where the Bulls will be forced to continue to rely on the 19 foot 2-point jumpshot aka no-man's land. It's the space in between the three point line and the paint, and it's where the Bulls, specifically, Luol Deng and Derrick Rose, love to shoot from. You'll also see Taj, Kirk Hinrich, and Tyrus (G-d help us) shooting those shots continuously as well. AND THEY'RE PRETTY BAD AT IT. But it's all they can do, especially in games like today's where the lane will almost surely be blocked off the entire time. Hopefully Derrick doesn't just get discouraged and stop attacking. You have to keep attacking and at least try to draw fouls.
Oh yeah, one last thing...make some freakin' free-throws. If I see Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, and John Salmons go 1-2 from the line multiple times with less than 5 minutes to go in a close game on many more occasions, my head might explode.
Prediction: Bulls lose 108-96. The defense just hasn't been there. They're horrible on the road. And like I said, I can see the Bulls going 0-7 on this trip, and tonight, just too many matchup problems against a team that is definitely better. If the Clippers were in the Eastern Conference, they would be a 5-seed, so if the Bulls want to pull off this upset tonight, they're going to have to bring the intensity...something they always lack on the road.