Friday, April 12, 2024
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NBA Preview: Los Angeles Clippers (41-23) at Chicago Bulls (32-34)

Only four games separate the Los Angeles Clippers from the Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets with 18 games remaining on their regular-season schedule.

Sometimes, coach Tyronn Lue wonders whether the Clippers realize that.

With Los Angeles on a two-game losing streak, Lue is challenging players to seize a greater sense of urgency beginning with Thursday’s visit to the Chicago Bulls.

Los Angeles couldn’t maintain an early 22-point edge Tuesday before falling 118-100 to the visiting Timberwolves, one of three teams ahead of the Clippers in the standings.

Leading scorer Kawhi Leonard (back spasms) left the game between the first and second quarters, and his status for the game Thursday is uncertain.

James Harden, who is battling left shoulder soreness, also is questionable. He told reporters after the Minnesota game, “We’ll see (Wednesday) how I feel.”

The Clippers are 12-3 against the Bulls in the past 15 meetings between the teams. Host Los Angeles defeated Chicago 112-102 on Saturday to spoil the Bulls’ bid for a 4-0 Western road trip.

Paul George scored 22 points in that game, while Harden notched a triple-double of 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan led all scorers with 24 points.

DeRozan, the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week, scored nearly twice that many points Wednesday night as he helped the Bulls stop a two-game losing streak. His season-high 46 points keyed Chicago to a 132-129 overtime victory against the host Indiana Pacers.

Alex Caruso added a season-best 23 points for the Bulls, who remained in ninth place in the East while finishing the game without Coby White.

White sustained a hip injury in the closing moments of regulation and will undergo further testing in Chicago, Bulls coach Billy Donovan said.

The Bulls were coming off a flat effort in Monday’s 127-92 home loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

Wednesday’s game featured 12 lead changes in the fourth quarter.

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