Bulls vie to stay on track vs. Clippers

( - The Chicago Bulls have played excellent basketball of late and they'll need to again on Friday night when they welcome the Los Angeles Clippers to the United Center.

The Bulls have won three straight and are 9-2 since New Year's Day. Chicago is 7-2 since trading All-Star forward Luol Deng.

On Wednesday, the Bulls knocked off Deng and his Cleveland Cavaliers, 98-87, in Cleveland.

D.J. Augustin scored a game-high 27 points and dished out seven assists to help lead the Bulls. Taj Gibson, filling in for an injured Carlos Boozer (calf), matched his career-high with 26 points, Mike Dunleavy added 22 and Joakim Noah finished with nine points, 18 rebounds and six assists for the Bulls.

"I think we're getting better and improving. We're playing good basketball right now, they're a good team. They crash the boards hard and battle. I'm just happy we won," Noah said.

The Bulls have become the fifth over-.500 team in the Eastern Conference and inched into the fifth spot. They are 12 back of the Pacers in the Central, and the Bulls hit the road for seven of their next eight after Friday night.

The Clippers are on their fifth game of a seven-gam road odyssey. They are 2-2 thus far with wins over the New York Knicks and Detroit Pistons, but losses against the Indiana Pacers and Charlotte Bobcats.

The most recent outing was the setback to Charlotte on Wednesday.

Blake Griffin, who was voted a starter for the Western Conference All-Star team, netted 27 points, but just one in the fourth quarter. Jamal Crawford scored 20 points and DeAndre Jordan snatched 20 rebounds for Los Angeles, which fell to 6-3 since losing point guard Chris Paul to a shoulder injury.

"We weren't hitting a lot of shots tonight and Blake saved us for a long time," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "Then they started trapping him."

J.J. Redick (15) and Darren Collison (12) also scored in double figures for the Clippers. Unfortunately, Jordan and Matt Barnes, LA's other two starters, combined for eight points.

The Clippers have to visit the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks on this Grammy trip.

The Clips demolished the Bulls by 39 at the Staples Center on Nov. 24 and have taken three in a row and six of eight in this series. LA has won seven of its last eight matchups in Chicago.