Game #3
STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA
December 30, 2011 | 7:30 PM (PST)
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TEAM Qtr 1 Qtr 2 Qtr 3 Qtr 4 FINAL
29 28 26 31 114
28 24 25 24 101



By Talyssa Gonzales

“When I came here, one of the things I wanted to do was make the team relevant—in a good way.” Los Angeles Clippers Head Coach Vinny Del Negro said before the Clippers home opener at STAPLES Center against the Chicago Bulls. “The expectation is great.”

Anticipation and excitement were also great as 19,426 fans scurried to their seats and anxiously awaited the introduction of the new Los Angeles Clippers as they hosted the Bulls and last season’s MVP Derrick Rose. Attendees were welcomed with free red LAC “Game On” State Farm t-shirts as they entered Staples Center. The mere sight of the Clippers players in the tunnel brought energized cheers from the crowd, while any mention of the Bulls sent a wave of low groans across the arena.

“This season opener is the most exciting because of the Clipper atmosphere,” said 16-year-old Alex Nailes, a Clipper ball boy in his eighth season with the team. “They’re giving a lot of stuff away too. I kind of wish I wasn’t working tonight so I could be sitting in one of the sections and win something.”

The Los Angeles Clippers Fan Appreciation Night festivities were in full swing as fans had the opportunity to win Blu-Ray players, various concert tickets, Clipper paraphernalia and an assortment of giveaways from Staples, Chumash Casino Resort and Commerce Casino. One lucky fan in Section 101 even went home with a new 40-inch TV.

Fifty fans lined up before the game and attempted to win a Blake Griffin jersey by making an NBA regulation three-pointer. Seated fans cheered in support as each of the contestants tried to make the shot and roared with excitement when two people were actually able to sink the basket.

“The style might have been a little bit off, but it went in,” said Clippers fan, Peter, who made the second shot and proudly walked away with a new jersey.

Just before the Clippers introduction, a blackout fell over the arena, causing a moment of silence quickly followed by thrilled shouts for the home team. Once starting lineups were announced, the arena was welcomed with personal greetings from Clippers guard Chris Paul and last season’s Rookie of the Year, Blake Griffin.

“Thank you for your support,” Griffin told the crowd. “We’re going to try to make this a season you won’t forget.”

Griffin later opened the first quarter with a slam dunk on a pass from Paul, and seven unanswered points later, all of Staples Center was on its feet howling in pure excitement with t-shirts and giant foam fingers waving in the air. The energy of the crowd continued through the night as Staples Center applauded dunks and three-pointers from the Clippers and jeered at shots and free throws by Chicago.

“It’s amazing tonight,” Clippers fan , Lucy Chairez said. “It’s so much more exciting than any other game I’ve been to.”

“It’s electric, and you can feel the energy,” said season ticket holder Nicole Usher as she enjoyed her third Clippers home opener with her mom. “We’re playing the Bulls, and usually it might be a 50/50 crowd, but not tonight. The Clipper Nation is definitely in full effect.”

There were enough highlights to last a week, but the enduring image from the Clippers home opener on Friday, Dec. 30 was not a high-arching pass to DeAndre Jordan three feet above the rim or a Blake Griffin up-and-under around Joakim Noah, but a parade of Chicago Bulls free throws.

The Bulls, playing the second game of a back-to-back and fourth game in five nights, outshot the Clippers by 17 at the line, on their way to a 114-101 win in front of a standing room only crowd of 19,426 at Staples Center.

“You can’t change the calls,” said Jordan, who scored 12 points with five rebounds and three blocks in 26 mostly foul-plagued minutes. “Whatever they [the officials] want to call, I’m going to play defense like I play and crash the boards like I play, and if they want to call them like that, whatever.”

The primary problem for the Clippers, though, was containing reigning MVP Derrick Rose, made more difficult without guard Chauncey Billups, who missed the game with a sore right groin. Billups was replaced in the lineup by Mo Williams (13 points on 5-of-10 shooting).

Throughout the first week of the season, Rose has said he wants to be more of a facilitator, less of a scorer. On Friday, he was both. He scored an ever-efficient 29 points, going 8-of-14 from the floor and 10-of-11 from the line, to go with eight rebounds and 16 assists, one shy of his career best.

“Derrick is just a handful and we all know that,” said Clippers Head Coach Vinny Del Negro, who coached Rose in Chicago for two seasons.

The matchup between Rose and Chris Paul, who was playing his first regular-season home game with the Clippers, was somewhat like watching two chess masterminds, cooly picking apart their opponent.

Paul had 15 points and 14 assists.

While the Bulls are widely considered one of the preeminent defensive teams in the NBA, they were mystified at times by Paul and again had trouble containing Griffin.

Noah, who guarded Griffin almost exclusively, was overpowered on several occasions. And two minutes into the third quarter, Griffin had picked up his first double-double of the season.

He finished with a game-high 34 points, his third career 30-point game against Chicago in as many tries, with 14 rebounds.

Still, the star forward was visibly frustrated at times, drawing a technical foul for arguing with the officials after a first-quarter drive.

“It’s a part of the game, you can’t get frustrated by [the lack of calls], you’ve got to move on,” Griffin said.

And despite his gaudy numbers, Griffin missed 11 of his 25 shots. “I missed too many jumpers, jumpers I can hit, you know, I was just trying to get to the rim. Unfortunately, some of those jumpers didn’t fall.”

Getting to rim was the easy part, early on.


The Clippers scored nine of the first 11 points in the opening minutes. With the crowd abuzz after the team’s extended introductions, Griffin dribbled around two defenders for a two-handed dunk down the center of the lane. He followed with a layup on an assist from Paul on the next possession and after Mo Williams drilled a 3-pointer 21 seconds later, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau called a 20-second timeout.

“We knew this was their fourth game in five nights, so we knew we wanted to jump on them early and take advantage like we did,” Jordan said.

The quick start was stymied by the Bulls, who worked back into the game behind Rose’s 11 first quarter points. And what was a back-and-forth affair into the second half, swung in Chicago’s favor during a flurry in the final 2:39 of the third quarter.

With the game tied at 77, the Bulls scored six straight, which included layups by Deng and Rose and a baseline jumper in transition by Taj Gibson following a wild scramble for a loose ball on the Clippers end.

“We were able to get some shots off and make some baskets,” Gibson said. “We just played solid [defense during that stretch].”

The Clippers got back within three points early in the fourth after rookie Trey Thompkins drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing, but that was as close they would get.

The Bulls pulled away with a series of threes from Rose, Deng, Ronnie Brewer, and Kyle Korver.


Paul has yet to defeat the Rose-led Bulls in five career tries… Caron Butler made quite a first impression. He had 16 points, going 6-of-11 from the field, with four assists… Billups sat out with a sore right groin that was sustained in practice Thursday and is listed as day-to-day by the team… After the game Paul was asked about the Clippers continuity as compared to the Bulls: “We’re all trying to learn each other,” Paul said. “That team’s been together and trust each other.”… Arguably the best play of the night came in third quarter. Paul threw a bounce pass to Griffin diving towards the hoop. As Noah slid over, Griffin contorted his body around the Chicago center for a one-handed dunk, avoiding a charging foul.

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