Kirk Hinrich practiced yesterday and is expected to return from the elbow injury he suffered against the Knicks to play against the Clippers tonight.
The Chicago Bulls are riding a three game win streak and have done a nice job winning the games they were supposed to win. Tonight, they face a team that's supposed to annihilate them and did exactly that in their first meeting in L.A. Can the Bulls find a way to stay in this one?
Quite frankly, no. Not unless something particularly abnormal happens.
The Clippers have too many parts the Bulls have no answer for. Their biggest strengths play right into the Bulls biggest weaknesses. The Bulls have no answer for Blake Griffin or Chris Paul, and both players should get whatever they want all night long against the Bulls.
Last game Blake Griffin was having a mild game and sitting on the bench waiting for the Clippers to close it out. The Bulls made a run, he came back in and scored about 12 points in three minutes to put the game hopelessly out of reach and went right back to the bench. It illustrated just how easily he could dominate Chicago when they needed him to.
The Clippers are playing at a high level as well. They've won their last three games by 22, 18, and 19 points. The Clippers have thrown out a few duds, and any given day anything can happen, but this doesn't look pretty.
So I've been pretty clear in stating the Bulls odds in this game aren't the best, it looks like a national TV humiliation coming, but if they are to win, they'll do so because they've successfully done following...
Keep Blake Griffin shooting jumpers
Despite being perhaps the most athletic big man in the NBA, a guy whom no one can stop when he drives and uses athleticism around the basket, Blake Griffin sometimes just falls in love with taking 20 footers. He's not bad at knocking them down. He'll still probably hurt you from out there, but it keeps him off the glass and keeps him from getting momentum swinging crazy dunks.
The Bulls have little hope to contain Griffin inside, but if they can run enough defenders at him to harass him inside and make him take lazy shots around the perimeter their odds will improve considerably.
P.S. let's not do that thing where we put Vladimir Radmanovic on Griffin again. Not for a second. Regardless of whether or not Vlad was on a unit that made a run. Seriously. My eyes can't take watching that again.
Shooting, shooting, shooting
The one thing that can always allow a worse team to beat a better team is to have a hot shooting night. Obviously you can't generate a hot shooting night anytime you'd want or else you'd have one every night. However, if the Bulls are going to pull off the upset, then it's quite likely that they have a better than average night from three and knock down their mid range jumpers.
Marco Belinelli's the most obvious candidate to have a nice game, but Luol Deng can knock down the three as well.
Great transition defense and defensive rebounding
Between Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers can run a pretty sick fast break with an elite player pushing the ball and two of the more athletic big men trailers in the NBA. They also have the size and quickness to crash the glass hard. The Bulls will need to stay fundamentally strong in both areas to nullify the Clippers athletic advantage.
Drink your Gatorade
It's going to be a long night for Bulls starters who will likely play 40 minutes a night against the Clippers who play their bench much more frequently and for more minutes. In a close game down the stretch, the Bulls unit will likely be the more tired of the two.
If the Bulls are competing in the game, you obviously go for the win, but understand that if it slips away from you that you've got a much more winnable game tomorrow. This isn't the night to run your guys into the ground to lose by 20 and leave everyone exhausted. If the game gets out of hand let this one go.