The opening week of the season hardly went the way the Chicago Bulls thought it would. The Los Angeles Clippers were hoping to get off to the start they've enjoyed.
The two teams heading in opposite directions meet Tuesday night at the United Center.
Chicago came into 2007-08 with high hopes after going 49-33 and reaching the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs last season, but the Bulls are looking to avoid starting 0-4 for the first time since 2004-05.
Chicago has looked anything like a team that many thought would contend for the East title. The Bulls rank near the bottom of league in points per game (86.7) and field-goal percentage (37.8), and are coming off a lackluster 78-72 loss at Milwaukee on Saturday.
Chicago posted its lowest point total since a 103-70 defeat at Miami on March 7 - a span of 22 games.
"It is tough,'' forward Luol Deng said. "It's something we didn't expect. Now that we're here, we've got to find a way to get out of it.''
The Bulls shot 35.1 percent from the field, 23.8 percent (5-for-21) from 3-point-range and committed 19 turnovers against the Bucks. The defeat came one night after a 96-85 defeat at home to Philadelphia, another of the league's worst teams last season.
Ben Gordon paced the Bulls with 15 points, but Chicago's other starters combined for 21 points on 10-for-34 shooting.
"We just don't look like we're real confident right now, and it shouldn't be that way at this level,'' coach Scott Skiles said.
Veteran reserve forward Joe Smith had 14 points and 10 rebounds for Chicago on Saturday. Smith had one fewer rebound against the Bucks than starter Ben Wallace has through three games.
Wallace, however, doesn't seem worried about the team's early struggles.
"We've just got to play through it, that's all,'' said Wallace, who had 19 points and 16 boards in Chicago's 103-89 home loss to Los Angeles on March 20 in the teams' most recent meeting.
Chicago won't have it easy against the Clippers (2-0), who have started strong despite the loss of star forward Elton Brand to an Achilles' tendon injury for an indefinite period of time. Los Angeles is trying to open 3-0 for the second time in three seasons and seeks a fourth straight victory over the Bulls.
Though Brand paced Los Angeles in both victories over Chicago in 2006-07, the Clippers have managed to get by without him so far. Los Angeles, however, will be playing its first game on the road, where it went 15-26 last season.
Corey Maggette had 27 points and Chris Kaman added 10 points and 15 rebounds in Los Angeles' 115-101 victory over Seattle on Sunday. Six Clippers scored in double figures for a club that hopes to improve offensively after averaging only 95.6 points last season.
"We're capable of playing an up-tempo game. We just want to establish it to play the right way and win ballgames,'' said Maggette, a Chicago-area native who's averaging 21.5 points and 6.5 rebounds. "We need to get the ball to open guys and make some shots. And we've been doing that the past couple of games.''
Maggette had 22 points in the March victory over the Bulls. Kaman, meanwhile, averaged 18.0 points and 16.5 rebounds in the season's first two games.
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