Road trip a resounding success for Bulls despite loss in LA

Chicago Bulls v Los Angeles Clippers
Chicago Bulls v Los Angeles Clippers / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

It looked like the surging Chicago Bulls might just get lucky last night, as the Los Angeles Clippers listed several key contributors as questionable on the injury report — including superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Bulls wouldn't catch a break against an undermanned team, however, as both Leonard and George ended up playing and leading a fully powered Clippers squad.

DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic, and Coby White once again provided the bulk of the Bulls' offensive firepower, scoring a combined 65 points, 24 rebounds, and 16 assists. Ayo Dosunmu and Alex Caruso were also reliable defensive stalwarts once again, but Chicago is still struggling to get any real production from the second unit.

As a result, the Clippers fired back with a well-rounded team effort the Bulls simply couldn't match. Six Clippers scored in the double digits, with George and Leonard leading the charge in that respect. James Harden may have not had the best scoring night of his career with 14 points, but he more than made up for it by posting an 11-rebound and 10-assist triple-double.

Although the Bulls built up a 57-46 halftime lead, they'd run out of steam in the end when pitted against a more talented and better-disciplined team. LA stormed back to claim a 102-112 victory and advance to 41-21, good for the 5th-best record in the NBA.

A second-half collapse to the Clippers shouldn't discourage this rapidly improving Bulls squad.

Wrapping up a four-game trip around the Western Conference, the Bulls have to be exhausted after playing 9 of their last 13 games on the road. Owners of a 31-33 record and the 9th seed in the Eastern Conference, they'll be forced to dig deep if they want to salvage this season.

Despite the loss, it's hard not to feel good about how this road trip panned out in the end. Returning to the familiar grounds of the United Center, the Bulls have a very real chance to regroup and prepare for a genuine playoff push. Still only 4.5 games behind the 6th-seeded Miami Heat, Chicago could potentially steal a guaranteed playoff spot if they perform well over their final 18 games of the season.

Before we get our hopes up too high, I do think it's worth noting that the Bulls looked gassed and lost their legs in the second half of their loss to the Clippers. If this incredibly high workload being put on the shoulders of this team is going to result in more sluggish performances in the future, adjustments are going to need to be made by Billy Donovan.

Whether Chicago's lethargic play was due to their extremely high minutes played, or simply the result of playing four games on the road in six short days remains to be seen. The Bulls now retreat to the Windy City to play 7 of their next 9 games at home, including two vital matchups against the 8th-seeded Indiana Pacers. How they perform over this stretch will almost certainly determine if there's any hope left for this team to make some noise in the playoffs.