|CLIPPERS DROP HOME OPENER TO BULLS - ERIC PATTEN|
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.
“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.