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Bulls vs. Clippers game preview, injury report, lineups

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Are the Bulls actually good?

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Clippers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

[Thanks to Paul for today’s game preview. Sign up for spots still available! -yfbb]

Chicago Bulls (8-4) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (11-2)

November 19, 2016 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California

Start Time: 9:30 P.M.

Local Broadcast Information: WGN; Prime Ticket; NBA TV.

Projected Starting Lineups:


Team:

Bulls

Clippers

Coach:

Fred Hoiberg

Doc Rivers

Point Guard:

Jerian Grant

Chris Paul

Shooting Guard:

Dwyane Wade

J.J. Redick

Small Forward:

Jimmy Butler

Luc Mbah a Moute

Power Forward:

Taj Gibson

Blake Griffin

Center:

Robin Lopez

DeAndre Jordan

Injury Update:

Doug McDermott will continue to miss time after sustaining a concussion in the Bulls win against the Wizards last Saturday.

Rajon Rondo is questionable for tonight's game as he continues to nurse a sore ankle.

Clipper's forward Wesley Johnson will miss the game tonight with a heel injury.

Preview:

After an ugly 85-77 win against the Utah Jazz on Thursday night, the Bulls have now strung together four wins en route to an impressive 8-4 record to start the season. By beating the Jazz Thursday and the Trail Blazers on Tuesday night in consecutive games, the Bulls have now won the first two games of their annual "Circus Trip" for the first time since November 1996.

However, there is a lot of work left to be done. The Bulls still have four games on this trip before they finally return to the United Center on Nov. 30. History is against the Bulls as the team has posted a 23-78 record on their "Circus Trips" since 1998 when Michael Jordan retired from the team.

The Bulls will look to continue their winning ways as they head to the Staples Center tonight to square off against the L.A. Clippers. Chicago Bulls television analyst Stacey King called this game a great measuring stick for the Bulls as they get an opportunity to size themselves up against their toughest opponent of the season to date. If the Bulls can get a win against the Clippers tonight, it will turn heads across the NBA.

But winning won't be easy, as the Clippers have gotten off to one of the best starts in the NBA.

With their 121-115 victory against the Sacramento Kings last night, the Clippers now own an 11-2 record which is the best mark in the highly-competitive Western Conference. The Clippers do it on both ends of the floor as they are third in the NBA in offensive efficiency rating and second in defensive efficiency rating. Chris Paul continues to be a perennial MVP candidate while the two-headed monster of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan dominate the paint and help the Clippers live up to their "Lob City" nickname. J. J. Redick's 50 percent three-point field goal percentage is the second highest mark in the NBA. Luc Mbah a Moute has established himself as one of the premier defensive stoppers in the league in his second season with the Clippers.

The Clippers also put pressure on opponents with a deep bench. At the age of 36, Jamal Crawford continues to provide an offensive spark off the bench while the coach's son Austin Rivers is a solid second-unit guard as well. Marreese Speights averages 8.8 points and 4.2 rebounds off the bench.

The Bulls will get the Clippers on the second day of a back-to-back, which bodes well for their chances in the game tonight.

3 Keys to a Chicago Bulls Win

1. Defend the 3- point line

The Bulls have just been okay at defending the 3-point line so far this season. Through 12 games, the Bulls are allowing an opponent 3-point field goal percentage of 34.4 percent which is actually right in the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the league.

However, that 3-point defense will face one of its toughest tests of the season tonight, as the Clippers currently rank third in the NBA in team 3-point field goal percentage at 38.1 percent. J.J. Redick (50 percent) and Chris Paul (43.1 percent) rank second and 20th respectively in the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage.

Tuesday night in Portland, the Bulls held a team that currently is ninth in 3-point field goal percentage to 5-21 (23.8 percent) from this range. This was one of many reasons why they were able to come out with such a convincing win against the Trail Blazers.

The Bulls 3-point defense will have to produce a similarly dominating result against the Clippers if they want a victory tonight.

2. Create Easy Shots

The Clippers have one of the best statistical defenses in the NBA. They are second in the NBA in defensive efficiency rating (95.6), third in opponent points allowed (95.4 points per game), and second in opponent field goal percentage (41.8 percent).

Therefore, the Bulls might find themselves hard pressed to score against the Clippers and they need to do themselves a favor and try to create easy shots, rather than settle for the tough mid-range isolation jumpers that have become a large part of their offense over the last couple of games.

According to NBA.com, the Bulls are second in the NBA in frequency of shots (24 percent) where a defender is guarding the shooter very tightly (within two feet of the shooter when he takes the shot). Although the Bulls have shot a remarkable 46.9 percent on these shots, continuing to thrive off of difficult shots is a tough way to make a living across the span of an entire NBA season.

Against the Clippers, the Bulls need to figure out how to generate easier shots. Good ball movement and getting out in transition are two things that will help the Bulls do this.

In this play, Nikola Mirotic gets down the floor and takes the shot before Utah's primary shot blocker Rudy Gobert(#27) gets down the court. That was why the play worked. The same concept applies against the Clippers, as the Bulls need to push the ball to prevent DeAndre Jordan (1.8 blocks per game) from camping out in the paint.

Furthermore, sharing the ball should also help the Bulls generate some easy offense.

In the first half of the game against the Jazz, the Bulls only had two assists and shot 35.7 percent from the field as a result. In the second half, the Bulls had five assists and shot 47.4 percent in a half where they pulled away a bit from the Jazz (the Bulls also pushed the ball in the second half which certainly contributed to this success).

3. Limit C (MV) P3

There is a reason numberfire.com picked Chris Paul as their early-season MVP. There is a reason why he is fourth in player efficiency rating in the NBA and the floor general that orchestrates this Los Angeles Clippers offensive machine.

Chris Paul is that good, and the Clipper's overall success largely depends on how he is playing. The Clipper's offensive rating is 19.9 points higher when he is on the floor as opposed to when he isn't playing. The Bulls need to figure out how to stop him, or at least prevent him from taking over the game.

The player that Hoiberg ultimately chooses to start against Paul is going to be important. At 6'5" and 202 pounds, Jerian Grant towers over the 6'0" Chris Paul. Paul likes to shoot the ball more than drive this season, so utilizing a player like Grant who has a big, long body and a 6'7.5" wing span will be important if the Bulls are going to stop the Clippers. Both Rajon Rondo and Isaiah Canaan check in at 6'1" and although Rondo's 6'7" wingspan is nearly as large as Grant's; Rondo's overall lapses defensively this season make Grant the best choice to try to stop Chris Paul.

In his first start of the season on Tuesday night against the Trail Blazers, Grant proved that he can hold his own defensively against the top point guards in the league. Two-time All-Star Damian Lillard was 6-17 from the field and 1-5 from 3-point land when Grant was on the court. This video shows Grant's highlights from this game and includes three of his five steals.

It is difficult to undersell Grant's impact defensively on this team. Opponents effective field goal percentages go down by 5.8 percentage points when he is on the court and opponents' overall offensive rating is 106.4 when he sits as opposed to 91.1 when he plays.

Regardless of Rondo's availability tonight, Hoiberg should match Grant's minutes with Chris Paul's. The Clippers go as Paul goes, and Grant gives the Bulls the best opportunity to make sure Paul doesn't take over the game.

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This is one of the Bull's premier matchups of the season.

Grab a coca cola and a blanket and prepare to have some fun....and to lose a little sleep.