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10 observations: Clippers' ‘Big Two' overwhelms Bulls

With James Harden sitting out, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard shred defense

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Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

The Chicago Bulls finished their back-to-back set of games with a 126-111 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night at the United Center.

For every step forward the Bulls seemingly take, as with Wednesday's overtime victory in Indianapolis, they take another step backward. They are back to three games under .500 and remain firmly rooted in the Eastern Conference's ninth seed.

"It's kind of the position we put ourselves in with the bad start," Nikola Vucevic said, referencing a 5-14 opening to the season. "We definitely dug ourselves a hole."

Here are 10 observations:

---The Bulls allowed 59.3 percent shooting as Kawhi Leonard and Paul George played like they were shooting open jumpers in the park. Leonard finished with 27 points on 12-for-17 shooting, while George added 28 points on 11-for-12 shooting. George shot 6-for-7 from 3-point range and added seven assists.

"With his length and size, he's a hard guy to contest when he gets it going," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said of George, whom he coached for one season at Oklahoma City. "We tried to trap him. I thought he and Kawhi, even when they got off of it, we got hurt on some back sides on some 3s. Both of those guys' size, they have the ability to play over you."

---The Bulls actually shot very well from 3-point range, finishing 16-for-35 from beyond the arc. So offense wasn't the problem. Defense was. The Clippers sank 20 3-pointers.

"They played really well offensively," Vucevic said.

---Donovan broke out the double-big lineup of Vucevic and Andre Drummond for the first time in awhile to start the fourth quarter. The lineup energized a comeback attempt, trimming a onetime 20-point deficit to eight. But it wasn't enough. Drummond finished with 15 points and seven rebounds in 16 minutes.

---The Clippers played without James Harden, who sat on the front end of a back-to-back, while the Bulls competed without Coby White, who missed his first game of the season following his hip injury on Wednesday.

---Torrey Craig started for White, who leads the NBA in minutes. Craig’s addition to the lineup allowed the Bulls to place solid defenders on both the Clippers’ All-Star wings. Craig guarded Kawhi Leonard and Caruso checked Paul George. Craig also contributed to the Bulls' hot 3-point shooting, sinking four from beyond the arc.

---The Bulls also played without Julian Phillips, who played in Indianapolis with foot discomfort that worsened overnight. Phillips’ absence shortened an already-short rotation further and led to activating two-way players Henri Drell and Andrew Funk. Drell made his NBA debut in mop-up time and scored his first NBA points.

---The Clippers ripped off a 10-0, first-quarter run in just 3 minutes, 3 seconds directly after DeRozan subbed out for the first time. That allowed them to double up the Bulls 28-14 and continued a recent trend in which the Bulls badly lose the minutes where DeRozan sits. No wonder DeRozan overtook White for the NBA lead in minutes played.

---Alex Caruso picked up where he left off in Indianapolis, sinking a career-high-tying five 3-pointers for the second straight night. That pushed Caruso past 100 made 3-pointers on the season. His previous career-high was 55, accomplished once each with the Bulls and Lakers. Caruso also joined Scottie Pippen as the only Bulls to record at least 100 3-pointers, 80 steals and 60 blocks in a season. Pippen had an insane 232 steals with his 109 3-pointers and 89 blocks during the 1994-95 season.

---With White out, Jevon Carter logged 18 minutes after not playing by coach's decision against the Pacers. Pregame, coach Billy Donovan praised Carter's professionalism, saying he's typically at the practice facility by 8:30 a.m. on off days before an 11 a.m. or noon practice. Carter finished with 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting.

---Leonard and George weren't the only problems. Starting for Harden, Bones Hyland finished with 17 points and a career-high-tying 11 assists. He routinely took advantage of open space because of all the defensive attention focused on Leonard and George.

"He got a lot of catch-and-shoot opportunities when we were doubling," Donovan said. "He's always been a very good offensive player. He's very skilled with the ball in his hands."

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