The Chicago Bulls (11-9) took on the Pacific Division’s best team, the Los Angeles Clippers (15-6) this evening (yes, that’s a dig at the Lakers) and came out with a loss. Coming off a huge victory against the east-leading New York Knicks, they were unable to keep that momentum going. The Clippers on the other hand, were coming off a blowout victory against Raptors back at home. The last time these two teams matched up, Los Angeles cruised to victory behind 22 points off the bench from sixth-man-of-the-year candidate Jamal Crawford and a 26 point double-double from Blake Griffin. This time around in the United Center, Chicago was hoping to take its revenge. Unfortunately, the team would lose 94-89.
Here’s how it happened:
Both teams started out the game playing great defense and terrible offense, a trait that’s usually just analogous of the Bulls. In fact, it took two minutes for the Bulls to get to cap off the lid with a low-post move by Carlos Boozer and another minute for the Clippers to hit their first field goal. Despite Hubie Brown going off about Blake Griffin’s improved shooting (okay, okay. I know he’s legitimately improved in that regard) the
Bulls dared him to shoot for the majority of the game, and it boded well for them. He started the game 1-5, scoring just two points in that stretch. The Bulls didn’t have shortage of terrible shooting either. Marco Belinelli started the game 0-6, and would finish 6-22, despite some timely three-pointers. The first quarter consisted of terrible shooting, a Carlos Boozer block (drink!) and two back-to-back lobs from both teams as a perfect portrayal of their respective talent levels. For Chicago, Kirk threw a terrible pass to Noah who barely managed to lay in the lob while on the other end Griffin threw down a ferocious dunk courtesy of pseudo-god, Chris Paul. The fact that LA was down just 3 points while shooting 30% from the field spelled trouble ahead for our beloved Chicago Bulls.
The second quarter was when things got exciting. After a slow start, the Bulls managed to hit three three-pointers in a row (drink, again!) thanks to a spark from Nate Robinson. By the end of the half, the Bulls had made 5 three-pointers (chug!). For good measure, Chicago is last in the league in three-point makes, with just four a game. Taj Gibson nailed two straight jumpers and the Bulls took their first lead of the game. He would finish the game with ten points. Getting back at the Bulls for not respecting him, Blake Griffin hit his first three of the season, just to indicate to fans that this quarter didn’t in fact take place in real life. However, Luol Deng answered back with another three and the Bulls were up by 3. Right when things were starting to look good for Chicago, the Clippers went on an 8-0 run of nothing but dunks, including one that gave me whiplash. With the Clippers up 5, head coach Tom Thibodeau would call a time-out. Side note: Nate Robinson picked up a flagrant foul for tripping his high-school teammate Jamal Crawford. Imagine coaching that team. Chicago would go into the half down by seven points. Carlos Boozer and Jamal Crawford led their respective clubs with 10 points.
Half-time report: Thibbs is on pace to lose his voice early this season.
Luol Deng opened the half with an offensive foul and a turnover trying to go for lobs both times. Struggling, he only had eight points, shooting 3-14 from the field to go with four turnovers. This kind of stuff only happens to the Bulls. Both teams traded baskets for a while as the Bulls three-point anomalies continued, giving them the lead once again. With the game tied at 57, Marco Belinelli hit another three-pointer. However, Chris Paul’s slow, painful murder of Kirk Hinrich’s already half-dead corpse continued and the Clippers took the lead yet again. Paul’s 18 points and 4 assists may not have lead the team, but floor leader he is. The Bulls called a timeout tied at 63 with 2:41 to go and six subsequent free throw attempts for the Clippers, including a clear-path foul, gave the Clippers a six point lead going in to the last 12 minutes.
The Bulls went on a 4-0 run to begin the fourth but a Bledsoe cut and a Griffin slam had the Clippers up by six again. A time-out by Thibbs led to a Taj Gibson dunk and two missed free throws by Boozer. Four straight points by Bledsoe had Los Angeles up by eight. Lamar Odom (Lamar Odom sighting by the way!) drew a charge on Carlos Boozer but he made up for it with five straight points, cutting the Bulls deficit to just three. However, Matt Barnes would spark the Clippers yet again, putting them up by seven. Marco Belinelli subsequently got destroyed by Blake Griffin on transition. Remember his Kyle Korver posterization? It’s officially become a rite-of-way passage for Chicago shooters. Beautiful pass by Jamal Crawford by the way, who finished with 10 points. Coming out of the break, Joakim Noah would get back-to-back tip in baskets, cutting the Clippers lead to five. He struggled along with Lu, but had 10 points and 11 boards by the end of the game. However, lob city was in full effect, easily making up for those two baskets. With just under two minutes to go, Noah who was saving his best for the fourth quarter, nailed two free throws. Down five points with 1:15 to go, a jump-ball between Boozer and Griffin gave the Clippers a chance to shut the door on Chicago. They’d slam it shut their next possession though, as Chris Paul stopped on a dime and nailed a jumper with less than 30 seconds to go. Despite a quick two by Joakim Noah, Chris Paul would nail his free throws.
Well, we knew it would happen. Somewhere along the line, the Chicago Bulls were going to miss Derrick Rose in crunch-time. Four starters played more than 40 minutes tonight, but it’s not going to be enough when one team has a point god and the other doesn’t. Either way, when Taj Gibson scores 10 points in 13 minutes, there shouldn’t be a 40 and a 42 beside Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah’s names. For the record, Booz deserves some credit. He may not be anyone’s favourite player (I even asked his mother), but he was the only reason the Bulls were in the game tonight. Without his 24 points and 13 rebounds, it would have been a very ugly loss for Chicago. Kudos to the Clippers who won their 7th straight game for the first time in 20 years. With the other Los Angeles team under .500 and December 21st fast-approaching, the apocalypse naysayers are going to be hard-pressed to wiggle their way out of this one.
Tune in tomorrow night as the Chicago Bulls, on tired legs, hope to turn it around against their their first-round opponents from last year’s playoffs, the Philadelphia 76ers.