POSTGAME REPORT: CLIPPERS, 94 VS BULLS, 89
CHICAGO–When Blake Griffin tipped in a miss by Chris Paul with just under 2:30 to go in the fourth quarter, Chicago’s “Madhouse on Madison” was quieter than at any previous point on the night.
The play put the Clippers up by nine and while it took a runner and three free throws from Paul to finish off the Bulls, Griffin’s tip helped propel the Clippers to a 94-89 victory Tuesday at the United Center.
It was the seventh straight win for the Clippers (15-6), the franchise’s longest streak since winning eight in a row in 1991. The team’s 15 wins in its first 21 games also marks the best start in Clippers team history.
Afterwards, Head Coach Vinny Del Negro called it “a game I didn’t think we had our best stuff or didn’t have a good rhythm…But we made enough plays to get a good win.”
Griffin scored eight of his team-high 22 points in the fourth quarter, including the aforementioned putback and an alley-oop in which he lobbed it up to Jamal Crawford who floated it back to Griffin before hitting the ground.
Still, the Bulls (11-9) managed to cut the Clippers’ lead to two on a 3-pointer by Marco Belinelli with 48 seconds left, but Paul answered on the next possession with a runner from 6 feet and salted the game away, making three of the final four free throws.
“I missed like three before that,” said Paul, who along with Griffin played in the fourth quarter for the first time in four games. “I finally got to the hole and knocked one down. I was just a lot more aggressive on that one and I got in there and luckily made the shot.”
Paul finished with 18 points on 6-for-15 shooting and three steals, while Griffin picked up his ninth double-double, adding 10 rebounds to his 22 points.
“Blake carried us,” Paul said. “I couldn’t buy a shot. It was a great team win for us but we’ve seen this movie before, starting out that last road trip beating San Antonio in the first game and losing the next three. Tomorrow is a big one for us.”
The Clippers expected to arrive in Charlotte between 4 and 5 a.m. local time and face the Bobcats about 14 hours later for game two of their four-game, eight-day road trip.
Matt Barnes. The Clippers have won nine of 10 games this year when Barnes scores 10 or more points, but it was less about Barnes’ timely baskets, a 3-pointer from straightaway and dunk after he cut backdoor and received a bounce pass from Crawford, than it was everything else he did Tuesday night.
“[Barnes] got us in the open court,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He made some plays for us, guarded well. He just does all the little things. He’s active and I like his activity.”
Barnes finished with 14 points, topping all bench scorers, along with four rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks. He also played a role in holding Bulls All-Star Luol Deng to 3-for-14 from the field.
The game was methodical and at times error-prone in the first half, but over the final 3:08 the Clippers turned a one-point deficit into a seven-point lead with four consecutive dunks. It was what Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was concerned about pregame when he called the Clippers a “steals team.” Three of the four plays were the direct result of steals (two by Paul and another by Crawford).
Griffin converted the first two, a soaring right-handed slam blowing past Deng and another on a pass by Crawford. DeAndre Jordan punctuated the run with the next two dunks, catching an alley-oop from Crawford and then following up a miss with put-back dunk at the front of the rim.
“The end of the second quarter changed the game,” Thibodeau said. “We started dancing with the ball. When you do that it leads to turnovers, live ball, and transition baskets for them. We shot ourselves in the foot there.”
Griffin. In addition to his ninth double-double, Griffin had three assists, one steal and connected on his first 3-pointer of the season, a jumper from the left wing late in the first quarter that he shot without hesitation as the shot clock buzzer sounded.
Crawford. The team’s leading scorer off the bench matched his lowest point output of the season with 10, but he did it on 4-for-7 shooting, led the team in assists with five and grabbed three rebounds, including a crucial one down the stretch on the defensive end in front of Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler.
Jordan. In just 24:04, Jordan went 3-for-5 for seven points and had 10 rebounds (four offensive). He picked up third foul late in the first half, but failed to collect another one in the remainder of the game.
Boozer. In two games against the Clippers this season, Boozer was arguably the most consistent player on the floor. He followed up a double-double in the Nov. 17 meeting with game highs in points (24) and rebounds (13).
Hot: Bulls from 3-point range. They made seven of their first eight shots from distance, effectively staying in the game when the Clippers went on a brief flurry in the opening half. They finished 10-for-20, becoming the 13th team to make at least seven shots from behind the arc against the Clippers. But while the Bulls were effective early from distance, Barnes said the Clippers adjusted.
“We just tried to run them off the line,” Barnes said. “They’ve got some good shooters in Nate [Robinson], [Kirk] Hinrich and [Marco] Belinelli so we just tried to run them off the line and our secondary defense has to be ready.”
Not: The Bulls from everywhere else. As team the Bulls shot 40.2% from the floor, including 6-for-22 from Belinelli. Chicago made just 32.5% of their shots from 2-point range.
Barnes: “It was a back-and-forth game all night, but I think midway through the fourth quarter we started getting a few stops, stringing them together and getting out in transition.”
Taj Gibson: “They made tough plays. It seemed like we were in the hunt. We cut it down to a couple of points, but Blake and Chris made tough plays. Matt Barnes played a great game. We have to do better closing out quarters and finishing games.””
Del Negro: “We got a lead with the bench, Matt Barnes and [Eric Bledsoe] and those guys got us an [eight-point] lead, but [the Bulls] made a little bit of a run at about 5 or 6 minutes and that’s when Chris and Blake, especially when we’re on the road, have got to be out there and that’s what stars do, that’s what the top players in the league do. You’ve got to win games. You’ve got to be the man at the end. Chris made plays, Blake made plays.”
Notes: One-time teammates, Bulls guard Richard Hamilton (torn plantar fascia in left foot) and Clippers guard Chauncey Billups (peroneal tendinitis in left foot) did not play… Crawford scored double-figures for the 28th time in a row, dating back to last season… The Clippers moved to 11-0 when holding teams to 43% shooting or worse… Del Negro is 2-0 with the Clippers when returning to Chicago, where he coached from 2008-2010… The Clippers were 15-for-23 from the foul line, compared to the Bulls making 9-of-12… Gibson had 10 points and six rebounds off the bench for Chicago, but played just 13:26… Paul has had four assists in each of the last two games, but the Clippers have won on both occasions. It’s only the second time in his career he’s had four or fewer in back to back games (Nov. 2005).