Clippers head to Chicago looking to end skid
CHICAGO — The reeling Los Angeles Clippers hope a short trip south can snap them out of their funk.
The Clippers (36-25) have lost two straight and four of their past five contests heading into Saturday night’s matchup against the Chicago Bulls (31-30). Coach Doc Rivers’ squad lost 112-101 to the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night before traveling 90 miles to Chicago.
Although the Clippers remain hopeful for a deep run in the playoffs, forward Blake Griffin and his teammates realize that their sloppy play cannot continue against the surging Bulls. Los Angeles committed a season-high 23 turnovers against the Bucks on Friday, including 16 turnovers in the first half.
“There are different things in each game,” Griffin told the Los Angeles Times. “I don’t think you can treat each game the same. It’s different mistakes. … It’s not one thing that will change that’s going to win all those games. We’ve got to be better in a lot of different areas.”
Otherwise, the Bulls could continue their surprise hot streak. Chicago has won five of six games to climb back above .500 in a season filled with more bumps than a slalom course.
Chicago shipped veteran forward Taj Gibson and 3-point specialist Doug McDermott to the Oklahoma City Thunder before this week’s trade deadline in exchange for potential-filled point guard Cameron Payne, veteran Anthony Morrow and center Joffrey Lauvergne. The deal opened up playing time for young Bulls players such as forwards Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine, and the team has responded to the shakeup with a string of victories.
The Bulls’ most recent triumph arrived Thursday night in the form of a 94-87 win against the Golden State Warriors. Coach Fred Hoiberg’s team improved to 19-12 at home.
Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade have carried the Bulls on offense, but reserve players such as Paul Zipser are a big reason the team remains in playoff contention. Zipser missed seven games because of an ankle injury but will be available Saturday for the second straight game. He is averaging 4.3 points and 2.3 rebounds a game as a rookie.
“He solidified himself as our sixth man and a guy closing games for us,” Hoiberg told the Chicago Tribune. “We missed him. He has size, length, he can put it on the floor and he can really defend.”
Saturday’s matchup marks the second and final meeting of the regular season between the teams. The Clippers won the first game 102-95 on Nov. 19 at Staples Center behind a double-double from Griffin, who finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds.
Wade scored 28 points against the Clippers in the teams’ first meeting. Butler added 22 points but struggled from the field on 5-for-18 shooting.
A string of defeats has increased frustration among the Clippers. They will try to maintain their composure against the Bulls one night after Griffin and Chris Paul each were tagged with technical fouls against the Bucks.
Paul said he and his teammates needed to play better on defense.
“We’ve just got to win games,” Paul told the Los Angeles Times. “I think the concern probably is our energy. It’s something that should never be up for question. And we’ve just got to play better.”