I'm not the type to gloat over 'calling' anything, as nobody cares if I were wrong and the Bulls had this game in hand, as that would've meant a 6th straight win. And it's hard to say calling this a trap game is any kind of feat anyway, since everybody knows that old NBA axiom about the first game back from a road trip, and that even older one about average teams losing as much as they win.
Add to those warning signs that the Clippers are seemingly just a bad matchup. With Chris Kaman returning to their lineup, they had a type of big versatile center that always gives the Bulls fits, as well as a guard combo in Davis and Gordon that are one of the few in the league that can match the Bulls in terms of strength.
The Bulls just didn't have that, ahem, 'thrust' tonight, in the type of game where the Clippers can score 12 points in the fourth and still win comfortably. Aside from Luol Deng's 14 first quarter points. Lu was aggressive to his spots on the floor, hit a straight-away three (that's a first, or close to it), moving off the ball, and even chipping in two steals ruining a couple Clippers transition opportunities.
But besides him (and only in that initial period), the Bulls shots were very flat (Rose especially was front-rimming everything), and the Bulls were careless with the ball. And their usual dominance of the offensive glass wasn't there to make up for it.
And that's a potential indicator of what could be not just a trap game but a bad trend: Joakim Noah did not look himself tonight, and we know he's battling foot issues, as is Taj Gibson. Kirk Hinrich hurt his thumb in the second half but stayed in the game. Even Derrick Rose looked to be running a bit gingerly at points. This is a shallow rotation*, and though I do love that VDN plays it that way, it does have its price. If guys start having to sit out games the end of the bench is exposed for the uselessness it is, and the losses will pile up.
But for now it's just a bad night, and a predictable one. The Bulls have a chance to redeem themselves in less than 24 hours in Philly, and it should tell the story about how healthy the team is right now. We should be thankful for that win streak as not a future predictor of success, but wins in the bank that can't be taken away, even after nights like tonight.
*Devin Brown received his first minutes as a Bull, and it's notable that he came in as a two with John Salmons sliding over to SF. This effectively means that Brown has pushed James Johnson out of the rotation, which is exactly how I would've handled it.