In his two seasons as head coach of the Chicago Bulls, Vinny Del Negro lead the team to an 82-82 record. One year after firing him the Bulls are off to a 33-14 start and sit in third place in the Eastern Conference.
Negro made it clear that his Los Angeles Clippers’ December victory over the Bulls was more than just another win.
Another victory over his former club might make for an even greater accomplishment.
The Clippers shoot for the franchise’s longest home winning streak in 35 years Wednesday night when they face the Central Division-leading Bulls, winners of five straight.
Blake Griffin had 32 points and 11 rebounds Monday to help Los Angeles (19-28) beat Milwaukee 105-98 for its ninth straight victory at Staples Center. The big man is averaging 27.7 points and 13.3 rebounds during the home streak.
The Clippers franchise last won 10 straight at home from Dec. 5, 1975-Jan. 6, 1976, when the team was the Buffalo Braves.
“That’s the best stat,” Griffin said of the streak. “It’s huge for us to protect our home court.”
Leading scorer Eric Gordon missed his fourth straight game due to a right wrist injury, but Randy Foye has proved to be a suitable replacement. The guard scored 20 points against the Bucks and is averaging 19.0 in Gordon’s absence.
Gordon won’t be in the lineup against the Bulls, but the Clippers said he is day to day after he was originally expected to miss a month.
Los Angeles, averaging 109.1 points during its run at home, embarks on an 11-game road trip following Wednesday’s contest. The Clippers cap the stretch by facing the Lakers as the visiting team at Staples Center on Feb. 25.
The Clippers have won three straight against the Bulls (33-14), taking the most recent matchup 100-99 on Dec. 18 in Chicago. Los Angeles entered that contest with a 6-21 record and a four-game losing streak, but the win began its current 13-7 stretch.
Del Negro coached the Bulls to back-to-back playoff appearances in 2008-09 and 2009-10 before a messy divorce which included an altercation with Chicago executive John Paxson.
“Obviously, this one is a little bit more special since it’s in Chicago,” Del Negro said following the victory.
Derrick Rose scored 34 points in that game, but missed a potential tying free throw with 0.8 seconds remaining that sealed the win for Los Angeles.
Rose scored 20 points despite battling stomach ulcers and Carlos Boozer had 24 and 10 rebounds as the Bulls beat Indiana 110-89 on Saturday.
“I told him on the bench, ‘I can’t tell you how proud I am, to be going through what you’re going through physically,’” Boozer said of Rose. “I’m sure mentally all that stuff drains you when you can’t do what you’re used to doing.”
Rose said after practice Monday that he is recovering and hopes to be back to normal by Wednesday.
Power forward Taj Gibson injured his right ankle against the Pacers and had to be helped off the floor. His status for Wednesday is uncertain, but he participated in practice and hopes to be in the lineup.
Gibson’s size may be needed as the Bulls look to slow Griffin, who had 29 points and 12 rebounds in the last meeting.
Boozer scored 25 points in that contest for the Bulls, who lost 104-97 on Jan. 20, 2010 in the most recent matchup at Staples Center.
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