|Williams-led Clippers thriving as they host Bulls|
As the Los Angeles Clippers inch toward a playoff spot, they'll continue to rely on their most veteran player, one who doesn't even start for the team.
Lou Williams will likely be at the center of attention when the Clippers host the Chicago Bulls on Friday night.
Williams recorded the only triple-double of his 14-year NBA career against the Bulls on Jan. 25, finishing with 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in the 106-101 victory.
His scoring average has increased each month this season, and Williams heads into Friday averaging 24.7 points in six games in March. On Monday in a 140-115 win against the Boston Celtics, he became the NBA's all-time highest-scoring reserve, passing Dell Curry (11,147) for No. 1.
Just as important to the team's surprising success this season has been his leadership on and off the floor.
"Everyone wants to hear what he's got to say, and when he's talking it's something important," Clippers center Ivica Zubac told the Orange County Register. "You know that's something that we need to work on or it's a problem. You know if he's saying it, everyone's going to listen to him."
Williams spent his first 10 NBA seasons in the Eastern Conference with the Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors, so he's used to going up against the Bulls, whether they were winning 62 games in 2010-11, or stuck on 19 wins this season.
The Bulls have most recently lost five of six and are coming off a 123-107 setback against the Los Angeles Lakers after leading by as many as 20 points early in the second quarter.
Chicago is expected to have leading scorer Zach LaVine back against the Clippers, however.
LaVine practiced on Thursday in Chicago and is probable to play in Los Angeles after missing the past two games with a knee injury. LaVine, who played at UCLA, is averaging 23.8 points.
Some have suggested LaVine should sit out the rest of the season and rest his knee, but he shot down that idea after practice Thursday.
"That's just not who I am," he said. "That's not what I do. It's going to be good for the team. We can get our chemistry down, continue to play well, build things for next year."
The Bulls are also looking for a bounce-back performance from second-leading scorer Lauri Markkanen, who shot 4-for-17 from the floor against the Lakers, including 0-for-8 from 3-point range.
It's a slump that began with a 6-for-21 performance in a 123-118 loss to the Hawks on March 3, putting him at 34.4 percent from the floor, including 9-for-40 from 3-point distance, in the past six games.
"The one thing I love about Lauri is nobody takes it harder when he plays poorly than him," Chicago coach Jim Boylen told reporters. "He came in and went to work, which I love. That's what you do.
You don't work less when things are bad for you. You work more. And you figure it out."
Markkanen will likely be matched against veteran stretch forward Danilo Gallinari, who was rested in a 125-104 loss against the visiting Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday, a night after he scored 25 points in the win against Boston.
--Field Level Media