The Bulls Saturday battled valiantly and relentlessly and down the stretch. But it wasn’t enough as the Los Angeles Clippers prevailed 102-95.
The Bulls’ four-game winning streak was stopped as they fell to 8-5. The Clippers are 12-2.
The Bulls were led by Dwyane Wade with 28 points and Jimmy Butler with 22. Rajon Rondo ad nine points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Taj Gibson had 11 points.
The Bulls play the Lakers Sunday in the Staples Center
Rondo returned to the starting lineup after missing two games and immediately helped put some life back in a Bulls offense that was flat in Utah. Rondo had five points with a three pointer, three rebounds and three assists in a first quarter that saw the Bulls take a brisk 33-23 lead on 68 percent shooting. The main thrust was from Wade, who made a pair of threes and added two more in the second quarter. Gibson also worked inside impressively against Blake Griffin for eight points and Robin Lopez stepped outside and rolled inside against DeAndre Jordan for seven points. Wade added those two more three pointers early in the second quarter as the Bulls stunned the Clippers with a 45-26 lead with about seven minutes left in the half. But the Clippers then dug in, especially on defense, with a Griffin running dunk over Lopez on a pick and roll with Chris Paul exciting and inciting the audience. Wade finished the first half with 18 points, but no other Bulls player was able to score in double figures as the Clippers led by Griffin pulled within 52-47 at halftime. The Bulls reserves combined for just four points and the team shot just six of 18 in the second quarter, 3 of 13 other than Wade.
The game became taut after halftime with Wade still carrying the Bulls and Butler chipping in, enthusiastic when he finally made a tough three and a three-point play for a 64-56 lead. With Griffin attacking and Paul shooting, the Clippers got within 68-67 before the Bulls pushed back ahead 74-67 on a Jerian Grant three. The Bulls then went into the fourth quarter hanging onto a 77-72 lead. The Bulls kept making plays early in the fourth to hold off the Clippers, Rondo with a loose ball between three Clippers for a putback, Bobby Portis with an offensive rebound before making his own jumper. But with 7:30 left the Clippers tied the game at 82. Clippers reserve big man Marreese Speights was big with a pair of threes in the fourth popping outside with the Bulls collapsing in the paint and a Jamal Crawford three gave the Clippers a 92-87 lead with 3:14 left. With just over a minute left the Bulls were hanging in, trailing 95-92 thanks to strong work on the offensive boards. And a big late three from Isaiah Canaan to bring the Bulls within 97-95 with 40 seconds left. Griffin looked then to get a bail out foul call on Butler 22 feet from the basket fading away as the shot clock expired. He made both free throws. Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg was ejected with 8.9 seconds left with technical fouls.