Clippers-Bulls Preview

The Associated PressDecember 10, 2012

The Los Angeles Clippers have won six in a row as they continue to get a boost from one of the best benches in the NBA.

While the Chicago Bulls don't figure to reach their full potential until Derrick Rose comes back, they've also gotten hot of late.

Having enjoyed lots of recent success in Chicago, the Clippers try for their first seven-game run in 21 seasons Tuesday night when they face the Bulls, winners of a season-best three in a row.

Los Angeles (14-6) has outscored opponents by an average of 16.8 points in its second six-game win streak of the season. The Clippers, who last took seven straight during a team-record eight-game run in 1991-92, cruised past Toronto 102-83 on Sunday.

Los Angeles held the Raptors to 39.0 percent shooting overall and 10 points in the fourth quarter, allowing one field goal over the final nine minutes.

"That's all defense," guard Jamal Crawford said after scoring 16 points off the bench. "Whenever you get a team stagnant and they can't score, it's defense."

The Clippers, who rested starters Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Willie Green for the entire fourth quarter and Caron Butler for all but 1:36, continue to rely heavily on their reserves. Los Angeles is getting 41.8 points off the bench to rank near the top of the league and is 11-0 when its reserves score at least 41.

"As long as I've been in the league, through 20 games I've never played this least amount of minutes," Paul said. "I should have no arguments about being tired. I'm also enjoying cheering on guys out there playing. We like to see each other succeed."

Los Angeles surely likes its chances to keep doing that in Chicago (11-8), where it's taken nine of 11. The Clippers also beat the Bulls 101-80 at home Nov. 17, outscoring Chicago 53-25 off the bench.

The Bulls, though, have won five of six while limiting foes to 86.7 points per contest in that stretch. They shut down a New York team that was without Carmelo Anthony in a 93-85 victory Saturday, limiting the Knicks to a season-worst 32.1 percent shooting and outrebounded them 47-40.

"It takes awhile for a team to understand how hard we have to play. I think we're getting there," forward Luol Deng told the Bulls' official website after scoring 22 points. "I'm not saying we've figured it out and got it down, but we were a lot better tonight than we were at the beginning of the season.

"As long as we continue to do what we are doing, we're going to get better as the season goes on."

With Rose working his way back from a torn ACL and Richard Hamilton out with a foot injury, Marco Belinelli has stepped up to average 20.3 points over the last three games - significantly higher than his season mark of 7.6. He scored 22 in his fourth straight start Saturday.

"This is not my first year in the league," Belinelli said. "This is my sixth year. I don't want to be just a 3-point shooter. I want to be a complete guy. (Saturday) we played offense and defense, rebound, ran. That's the way we have to play."

The Bulls could also be without starting point guard Kirk Hinrich on Tuesday due to an injured left elbow. He's listed as day-to-day.