The Los Angeles Clippers win in spurts and they lose in spurts.
Though things looked iffy for the Chicago Bulls for a while there at the beginning of the season, they've been winning in streaks lately too. Perhaps they can find a way to halt the Clippers' six-game winning streak on Tuesday night and send them moving in the opposite direction.
Here's a look at the players who will be instrumental in Tuesday's action (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Griffin has been feeling it lately. In his last four games, he's shot 58 percent or better from the floor, registered double-digit rebounds twice and scored 19 or more points in each of those games. In the month of December, he's averaging a 62 percent clip from the floor and a double-double of 21.2 points and 10 rebounds.
And unsurprisingly, the Clippers are undefeated in the month of December. In fact, they haven't been beaten since welcoming New Orleans to town on Nov. 26.
There seems to be a strong correlation between this team's success and Griffin's own personal domination, but what's even more encouraging is that he's come up big in the close games.
See the Clippers' one-point win over the Jazz on Dec. 3: In that one, Griffin was the leading scorer of the night as well as the leading rebounder. He has what it takes to single-handedly put the Bulls in a hole on Tuesday.
... But Noah has what it takes to do the same thing to the Clippers.
The Bulls haven't been winning big over their last three—they've won by an average of 7.3 points—but they've been getting the job done. And Joakim Noah, in particular, has been coming up big when he's needed to because nobody else has.
In last Friday's slim four-point win over the Pistons, Noah had the biggest game of his career—all in the name of keeping the Bulls afloat. He had a career-high 30 points coupled with a career-high 23 rebounds, leading Chicago to victory over Detroit almost all by himself. He rallied the Bulls back from a 17-point deficit, re-energizing his entire team with his performance.
Leading the team sometimes isn't about being the biggest performer in the box score. It's about giving the rest of the guys the energy they need to mount a comeback and refuse to give up.
If the Bulls can come into Tuesday's game with the same attitude, they have a good shot.
Jamal Crawford (and the Clippers' Bench)
In the Clippers' most recent victory, a 102-83 defeat of the Toronto Raptors, it took a superhuman effort from the bench in order to keep the win within reach.
Before the reserves stepped in to finish the job, the game was close. But it was a fourth-quarter rally, spearheaded by Crawford, that kept the Clippers rolling en route to their sixth straight win. Crawford finished the night with 16 points in 32 minutes, equalling our outscoring the output of every starter except Griffin.
The best teams down the stretch are the teams with the best benches.
On Sunday night, this bench scored 47 points while the starters scored 55. It's always good to know the reserves can be relied upon to keep the game in check.
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