While the Los Angeles Clippers keep insisting that Blake Griffin's absence will benefit them in the long run, the Chicago Bulls think a tweak to their lineup might help them now.
The Clippers look to keep rolling without Griffin on Sunday as the Bulls continue their longest road trip of the season seeking their first winning streak since early January.
Griffin has been out since late December, first with a quadriceps injury and now with a broken right shooting hand after punching a team staff member last weekend - an injury that may keep him out until mid-March. Los Angeles (31-16) has fared just fine, though, winning 14 of 17 games since he was injured Christmas Day.
Chris Paul finished with 27 points in Friday's 105-93 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, but it was a 56-25 bench advantage that lifted the Clippers.
Los Angeles' 43.1 bench points per game in Griffin's absence rank toward the top of the league, up from the 31.3 that previously ranked 23rd. Reserves Austin Rivers, Lance Stephenson and Jamal Crawford combined for 48 points Friday.
''There are a lot of guys that are playing more than they were with Blake, so when he comes back we're going to have that much deeper of a team,'' Rivers said.
Los Angeles, though, did struggle to an average of 90 points in its previous three games. It's the defense that has impressed, holding opponents below 95 points in nine of the last 18 games. That previously happened only eight times in 29 games.
The Clippers, who have won 11 of 14 at home, have forced an average of 19.3 turnovers during their three-game winning streak while allowing 88.3 points per game.
The Bulls (26-19) haven't won two straight in more than three weeks, losing seven of 11, but seem to think they've found a short-term answer as they await the return of some key contributors.
E'Twaun Moore started in place of Tony Snell at small forward Thursday and helped speed up Chicago's pace in a 114-91 rout of the Lakers to open a seven-game trip. The Bulls averaged 93.8 points in their previous three games.
Moore made his first start since he was with Orlando in 2013, and though he scored just eight points, his quickness on defense led to fast-break opportunities. He had two steals and several pass deflections, and the Bulls finished with 21 fast-break points - their most since having 27 on Nov. 9.
"E'Twaun is huge at spacing the floor," guard Jimmy Butler told the team's official website. "He's guarding and plays incredibly hard. ... I like him in the spot he is in."
Butler, named an All-Star earlier in the day, made 11 of 17 shots for 26 points and matched a career high with 10 assists.
Chicago finished three off a season best with 29 assists on 47 made baskets. Pau Gasol had 21 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, and Derrick Rose logged 16 points with assists on a behind-the-back pass to Moore and an alley-oop lob to Jimmy Butler on the break.
Rose feels Moore "should be out there" not just because of how he's playing but how the team plays.
"It's all about running," Rose said. "There's no way we should have three guards on the floor and not be running."
Moore played a season-high 36 minutes and may continue to see an expanded role with Nikola Mirotic (appendicitis) and Mike Dunleavy (back) sidelined. Mirotic will be out until after the All-Star break, and Dunleavy might see his first action later on this trip.
Moore didn't even play when the Bulls beat the Clippers 83-80 in Chicago on Dec. 10. While Gasol had a game-high 24 points, Paul and J.J. Redick combined to shoot 7 of 27. Butler has helped hold Redick to 9 of 35 in the last three meetings.