The Bulls Saturday slowed to a walk in the second half and were run out by the Los Angeles Clippers, losing 101-91.
After leading basically all of the first half, the Bulls stalled after halftime and never made a serious run in the fourth quarter.
The Bulls were led by Jimmy Butler with 16 points as he was just four of seven shooting. Robin Lopez had 12 points, Bobby Portis 11 and Dwyane Wade and Paul Zipser 10. Wade shot two of 11. Former Bull Jamal Crawford led the Clippers with 25 points off the bench.
The Bulls fell back to .500 at 31-31. The Clippers moved up to 37-25. The Bulls starting Monday in Detroit play four of their next five and six of their next nine on the road.
The Bulls were back to a full 15-player roster, which only complicates a bit who plays and who stays ready. The Bulls were ready to start, shooting with accuracy to begin and 50 percent through most of the first quarter with six points for Lopez. The problem was the Bulls weren’t stopping much as J.J. Redick made his first four shots in the first five minutes. The teams mostly traded baskets with neither team getting ahead by more than four points until the Bulls closed the first quarter with six straight points for a 29-23 lead. Lopez had 10 points and Butler eight being more aggressive to start. The Bulls had eight assists on 11 first quarter scores. The Bulls offense remained fluid with Rajon Rondo continuing to accelerate the pace and the reserve group running with him. Threes by Paul Zipser and Denzel Valentine gave the Bulls a 40-31 lead before the Clippers closed within 42-36 on a Crawford jumper with just under eight minutes left in the first half.
Cristiano Felicio kept beating the Clippers down court and finished a break for a 46-36 lead midway through the quarter. Felicio kept beating Clippers’ big men down the court and scored on a Nikola Mirotic miss for a 50-40 Bulls lead. But Redick continued his sharp shooting as the Clippers pulled within 54-49 with two minutes left in the half. Portis, like Felicio, continued to outrun the Clippers big men, scoring on a pair of fast break dunks as the Bulls took a 61-55 halftime lead. The Bulls had a rare 13-4 first half lead in fast break points.
The Clippers were the aggressors to open the second half as the Bulls also went into more half court play going through Lopez and Wade. The Clippers thus sent the Bulls into an early timeout trailing 65-64 four minutes into the third quarter. Coach Fred Hoiberg mentioned pregame there was some talk about returning Rondo to a starting position and that could occur as the starters again played more slowly. And Rondo did replace Jerian Grant at that first timeout. But Rondo soon sprained his ankle stepping on the foot of Clippers coach Doc Rivers while running back off the court. Rondo went out and the Bulls became stuck. They scored two free throws the rest of the third quarter, the Clippers finishing the quarter on a 10-0 run to take an 82-73 lead into the fourth quarter. The Bulls shot three of 17 in the third quarter. The Bulls were outscored 27-12. The Clippers kept the pressure on in the fourth quarter, especially with Crawford finding the mark and blitzing the Bulls with jump shots as the Clippers took a 96-80 lead with just over six minutes left in the game. The Bulls made a bit of a run to get back within 10, but Crawford hit another jumper to crush the Bulls hopes.