The Clippers will play their third consecutive home game Saturday night against the Chicago Bulls. After winning the last two against Atlanta and Miami by an average of 10 points, the Clippers (6-2) come into the matchup emphasizing defensive pressure to halt the offensive production of a veteran-heavy Bulls squad.
Though the Bulls (5-3) enter without star point guard Derrick Rose (rehabilitation from surgery on torn left ACL), the cornerstone of their offense, Chicago has five players averaging double figures.
“We need to focus on our defense,” Blake Griffin said. “It’s about us. It’s about how we come out defensively.”
Chris Paul cited defense as the reason the Clippers defeated the Heat, 107-100, Wednesday, and believes his team must bring that same mindset into Saturday’s game.
“I know the [Heat] ended with 100 [points], it sort of looked a little different towards the end,” he said. “Our defense in the second half is what got us the win.”
And as has been the case in six of the Clippers’ first eight games, home court advantage will also be a key.
“These past few wins are good, but we’re playing at home,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We expect to win.”
LAST TIME OUT
Clippers 107, Heat 100: The Clippers took down the defending-champion Heat at home behind Griffin’s 20 points, 14 rebounds and six assists. It was a collective effort, as five players scored in double figures, including Jamal Crawford’s team-high 22-point outing. The game was close until 1:26 left in the third quarter when Chris Paul hit two consecutive threes and sank two free throws to put his team up by 10. The Clippers led by as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter. LeBron James scored 30 points for Miami and Dwyane Wade was held to six points (2-for-10 from the field) and committed five turnovers.
Bulls 112, Suns 106 (OT): The Bulls outlasted the Suns in overtime after relinquishing an 18-point third-quarter lead. The Bulls pulled it out in the end as Joakim Noah had 21 points, 12 rebounds and five assists, including the two closing buckets to clinch the win. Carlos Boozer had 28 points and 14 boards, and Luol Deng and Richard Hamilton added 21 and 15 points, respectively. Luis Scola had a game-high 24 points and 14 rebounds for the Suns, while Sebastian Telfair added 17 points off the bench.
Blake Griffin vs. Carlos Boozer. The forwards are set for a tough matchup inside as Griffin has his best career-scoring average against the Bulls with 31.7 points per contest. Boozer is coming off of his best game so far with 28 points and 14 rebounds against Phoenix.
Asked to compare the two power forwards, Del Negro said, “Blake’s really athletic, but [they have] similar size, I guess you could say. Boozer’s a lot older than Blake, but it’s going to be a good matchup [Saturday] no question.”
TWO THINGS TO WATCH
Bulls in the paint. Clippers center DeAndre Jordan and the rest of L.A.’s frontline will have tough assignments in Chicago’s trio of Boozer, Noah and Taj Gibson, who work hard on the glass and make things difficult in the paint.
“They have a great interior” Griffin said. “We need to do a better job of rebounding. Crashing the glass on the offensive end is a focal point for [DeAndre Jordan] and myself.”
Luol Deng. The 6-foot-9 versatile wing can take opponents into the paint and out on the perimeter, demanding a close out for the shot. He’s averaging 19.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game on 49.6% shooting from the field.
Del Negro coached the Bulls from 2008-10, compiling an 82-82 (.500) record and making the playoffs both seasons… Clippers guard Jamal Crawford spent the first four years of his career in Chicago (2000-04) where he averaged 10.4 points per game… The Clippers are 16-7 in their last 23 games against the Bulls... Clippers guard Chauncey Billups and Bulls guard Richard Hamilton played seven seasons together in Detroit leading the team to an NBA championship in 2004… Crawford and Bulls guard Nate Robinson both attended Rainier Beach High School in Seattle.