Clippers’ Bench Looked Painfully Familiar To Mobbed-Down Bulls





Do blowout victories lead to big nights for a team’s bench or does a big night for a team’s bench lead to blowout victories?

Yes. And vice versa.

Something like that, anyway, after the team with arguably the NBA’s best unit of reserves took on and handily beat the team that used to arguably have the best backups.

The Los Angeles Clippers have been getting great production from their bench, led by veteran addition Jamal Crawford. Crawford (at  20.7 ppg) isn’t just the Clippers’ leading scorer so far this season, he ranks ninth overall in the NBA. He’s the only one of the top 26 on that list who is averaging fewer than 30 minutes nightly – in fact, Crawford hasn’t started a single game.

The 13-year veteran is off to his best start ever – he’s averaging 26.5 points per 36 minutes, 5.6 points more than his previous best. Crawford scored 22 minutes in 27:22 Saturday, and he had plenty of help from benchmates Matt Barnes (13) and Eric Bledsoe (10) in L.A.’s 101-80 victory over Chicago.

Ahem, yes, that Chicago. One of the Bulls’ distinctive advantages the past two seasons was a second unit unrivaled in the NBA for total impact at both ends of the floor. While guys such as Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson gave their club reliable scoring weapons, defenders such as Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer and Taj Gibson made coach Tom Thibodeau smile at the havoc they wreaked on the other clubs’ best-laid plays.

Except that now, only Gibson remains from the guts of that “bench mob.” Gibson’s production has been down so far, possibly affected by contract-extension uncertainty that wasn’t resolved until the Halloween deadline. Jimmy Butler hasn’t made the second-year step as a shooter that was supposed to make Brewer expendable. The others were shed in Bulls management’s adherence to fiscal responsibility, i.e., minimizing luxury-tax liability.

So the Bulls swapped out valuable parts as if they were interchangeable cogs, and the helpful contributions in reserve now are supposed to come from Marco Belinelli, Nate Robinson, Nazr Mohammed, Vladimir Radmanovic and Marquis Teague.

Only they’re not. Catch a glimpse of the gamebook from this one: Through three quarters at Staples Center, the Clippers had a 17-point lead but a 42-8 bench scoring edge. The Bulls’ backups, in a total of about 33 minutes, were a frosty 2-of-12. They were part of the problem defensively in the Clips’ 35-point second quarter, too.

A team that has no margin for error, with its superstar point guard still out indefinitely, lately has been getting next-to-nothing – nothing reliable, anyway – from its used-to-be strength.

As ESPNChicago.com’s Nick Friedell reported in his West Coast dispatch:

Aside from Derrick Rose’s absence, the Bulls’ single biggest issue is the fact that their new Bench Mob isn’t playing nearly as well as their old one did.

“Our second unit comes in, we always try and take advantage,” Crawford said. “We feel like we’re among the best second units in the league and every night we get an opportunity to prove it. So we want to support our starters and once we get everybody together we feel like we’ll be among the best teams in the league.”

That’s exactly what Taj Gibson and his old Bench Mob teammates used to say after games. They would always find a way to extend a lead or keep it at bay until the starters returned. That’s not the case anymore. Thibodeau struggles to find consistency from his new group on a night to night basis. When they play higher quality opponents and the starters don’t bring the right intensity — the Bulls are in trouble.

Crawford, at 32, might not be able to maintain his current pace. Then again, the Clippers have Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups potentially in reserve for their reserves, so there is cavalry for the cavalry. The Bulls used to have that kind of deep depth, but right now all they have is Radmanovic playing the Brian Scalabrine role, and of course less lovably.

24 Comments

  1. ddddd says:

    Here is how the clippers will probably work this when Billups comes back…. Once Billups gets ready to play, he will have a reserve role for a couple games in somewhat garbage time type role. Then when he actually gets his timing back, Billups will replace Green in the starting lineup. Green will then be relegated to a specialty shooting role in limited minutes, and Crawford’s minutes and role stays the same regardless what happens with the sg in the first unit. Crawford’s specialty is 6th man bombshell. There is no way that Crawford produces with the first unit due to the fact that CP3, Griffin and Butler need their shots in the first unit. It is the same exact reason why Harden was a bench player when he played for OKC, the bench needed his scoring… Jet with Dallas and Boston now… same concept. Ginobli in SA… same concept… Smith for the knicks…. same concept… KMartin in OKC now…. same concept… I could go on!

  2. Davy says:

    Clippers inexperienced? Grant Hill, Chauncey Billups, Lamar Odom, Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, …

  3. Pgulinp1 says:

    you don’t know how great team is before they face playoff, end of story. LAC were good last year before they faced spurs and lose 4-0 so it’s stupid.. in other hand u had last year boston with 7 player roster in nba east finals . and about that bulls bench… i didn’t saw them winning championship with of without rose , matter of fact i didn’t saw them in nba finals 2…. LAC are like Denver, really nice to watch but there is no way that they can win championship as long as Spurs have Pop Parker and Timmy, as long as OKC have Durant and also they can’t win series against older brother Lakers who can be only better …

  4. wilfredo lopez says:

    I agree. As a Chicago native ,I’ve seen the bulls build a great team that has had a super talented bench the last two seasons ,but great pieces have left , the bench we have now is just another bench with hopeful players that aren’t that good.

  5. lac fan says:

    clippers have a good team, what they dont have yet is a winning mentality, if they built winning mentality over the season they can go far in playoffs. basketball is a mind game especialy when playoff comes.

  6. Ungla says:

    Fk should just get lebron mama

  7. I still think they are not ready to win the championship. They are a group of very talented but inexperienced players, AND they don’t have a big guy in the middle that can battle against Haward from LA, Perkins and Ibaka from OKH etc.

  8. Dev says:

    How did New York and L.A. Clippers acquire such deep benches? seriously.

  9. SUN RA says:

    No doubt Billups was, and is great. but Jamal is straight ballin right now man,

  10. manu says:

    this clipper team isn’t as good as 2006 and isn’t gonna go farther either

  11. Reekau says:

    In complete agreement with Mr. Big shot : how is it possible to treat Billups as current-future-reserve-back-up ? A top-five all-time three-pointer made in the history league ? Green will be the next second-unit, soon !

  12. Dixie Eli - TN says:

    best start in 6 seasons?!? was the clippers good 6 seasons ago? were they ever good? i mean ever ever?
    its a crazy world where the clippers are a top NBA team

  13. Mr. Big Shot says:

    Billups aint a backup. No won that won Finals MVP should be considered a back up. If Billups can stay healthy, he’s a better player than Crawford. It just irritates me how underrated Billups is.

    • Hi says:

      Billups is without a doubt better than crawford when healthy. The problem is whether or not he can be as good a player as he was a couple seasons ago after tearing his achilles tendon. If he is, the Clippers are up there when it comes to the best teams in the league.

  14. white mamba says:

    The Bulls should have beg Scalabrine to come back. He’s the only one who can replace D Rose.

  15. TV63 says:

    NO Bench is worse than the CAVS! Gladly trade anyone else’s bench!!

  16. Erwan n says:

    Its true that the bulls gave up there strong back ups which in the short term makes them a weaker team…for now…its all about the future… On the other hand the clippers are pushing for the present. Good luck to them both… but damn the clippers are looking good!!

  17. W/E says:

    yep the clippers are really good,J.crawford is owning,giving him less minutes and coming off the bench is ideal cause he gets to come into the game fresh and be able to score big,when shooters get tired they start being less efficient but its no problem for the clippers cause they got Billups and Hill for back up later in the season and playoffs.

  18. Game Time says:

    Neither will the Lakers.