Bulls-Clippers Preview

The Associated Press

While the Los Angeles Clippers are off to their best start in six seasons, the Chicago Bulls have been rather inconsistent while playing without their injured star.

The Clippers look to end their recent home struggles against the Bulls while trying for a fifth straight win Saturday night.

Los Angeles is 6-2 for the first time since 2006-07 thanks to some strong play against a few of the league's top teams. Blake Griffin had 20 points with 14 rebounds while Chris Paul added 16 and 10 assists as the Clippers ran their home winning streak to three games Wednesday with a 107-100 victory over Miami.

They also have wins over the rival Lakers, San Antonio and Memphis - all at Staples Center, where they've played seven of their first eight.

"These wins are good, but we're playing at home and we expect to win," said coach Vinny Del Negro, whose team had two winning streaks of at least five games last season.

Echoing their coach's sentiments, Los Angeles' players won't make too much of the early success even though they are shooting an NBA-high 49.5 percent and averaging 102.8 points.

"It's early, very early," Paul said. "We don't want to get ahead of ourselves. Just keep playing the right way every night."

Los Angeles outscored Miami 33-20 in the third quarter thanks in large part to Paul, who scored the Clippers' final 13 points of the period during a 13-4 surge.

"He makes things happen and that's why I've always felt that he's the best point guard in the game," LeBron James said.

The Clippers may need Paul and Griffin to be at their best as they try to avoid a third consecutive home loss to Chicago. Griffin has totaled 66 points, 26 rebounds and 10 assists in the last two home meetings with the Bulls, who won both by a combined 31 points. Paul had 15 points and 14 assists as the Clippers lost for the fourth time in five home tries against Chicago, 114-101 on Dec. 30.

Chicago (5-3) had star Derrick Rose for four of those meetings, but continues to play without the former MVP as he recovers from a torn ACL. After opening with back-to-back victories, the Bulls have alternated losses and wins in their last six contests.

Carlos Boozer had 28 points with 14 rebounds while Joakim Noah and Luol Deng each scored 21 as Chicago opened a five-game trip with a 112-106 overtime victory at Phoenix on Wednesday. The Bulls' 2-0 road start is their best since winning their first six away from home in 1996-97.

"I think it's good for us to get on the road and be together," Deng said. "It's good that we got a win. Now we'll try to get the next one."

The Bulls hope to play better and keep focused after blowing an 18-point third-quarter lead and being outscored 31-17 in the fourth Wednesday.

"The lesson we have to learn is we have to play tough with the lead," coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Noah has been tough to stop while averaging a career-high 16.0 points and pulling down 9.8 boards per game. He scored 19 at Los Angeles in December.

Deng has averaged 21.8 points on 51.6 percent shooting in his last four against the Clippers at Staples Center.