The Bulls finally survived one.
The Bulls Thursday squeezed out an 83-80 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, breaking a three-game losing streak as Chris Paul’s three pointer at the buzzer was wide left.
After leading by 16, the Bulls saw the Clippers tie the game in the fourth quarter and it looked like another fourth quarter meltdown. But the Bulls got nine fourth quarter points from Derrick Rose, the last on a runner with 45 seconds left for some breathing room.
Pau Gasol led the Bulls with 24 points, Jimmy Butler had 14 and Taj Gibson 12. Aaron Brooks getting rare playing time was crucial with 10 points off the bench.
The Bulls moved to 12-8 and the Clippers fell to 13-10.
The Bulls came out slowly again, sticking with Taj Gibson starting for Nikola Mirotic. But Blake Griffin got going with pick and pop jump shots as the Clippers sailed ahead 19-11 with 3:28 left in the first quarter. But then an emotional and animated Gasol fought back, castigating teammates loudly for failures to box out and backing it up with 14 first quarter points, including a late three pointer to bring the Bulls within 24-23 after one quarter. The Bulls then finally busted out with some energy to start the second quarter against a weak Clippers second unit.
The Bulls scored 13 straight for a 37-24 lead behind the inventive play of Aaron Brooks, who hadn’t played by coach decision the previous three games. But Brooks had seven points with a three and a pair of floaters and though the Bulls cooled when the starters returned, the Bulls went into halftime leading 44-35 even as Butler and Derrick Rose were a combined two of 11 shooting. But the Bulls held the Clippers to 11 second quarter points. The Bulls started the second half well, which has been a goal as well. It also was a new look as Rose took off his protective mask for the first time this season and got himself an early score for a 48-35 lead.
The Bulls then pulled ahead 59-43 when Taj Gibson made a pair of free throws after Blake Griffin was ejected for a flagrant 2 for a swiping hard hit on Gibson. Griffin seemed to apologize to Gibson immediately. But that energized the Clippers. Josh Smith replaced Griffin and quickly hit DeAndre Jordan with a pair of lob dunks. Griffin left with 18 points and 11 rebounds. The Bulls held onto a 64-54 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Clippers were shooting 30.9 percent through three quarters and the Bulls 36.9 percent.
But it went badly for the Bulls again to open the fourth quarter as after a Rose runner, the Clippers scored 12 straight points on four three pointers as the Bulls missed nine straight shots. That enabled the Clippers to tie the game at 66 with 7:19 left. It was a wild close with the Clippers’ first seven field goals of the fourth quarter all threes while Rose and Gasol countered with their own as the Bulls hung on.