They haven't been very pretty, but the Chicago Bulls gutted out their 12th victory of the season over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday. It looked like it would be a long night for the Bulls who came in on a three game losing streak, and playing the second game of a back to back. The Bulls came out slow, but so did the Clippers who were also playing back to back games. The game was so slow at times that the crowd seemed to forget what they paid for with the Clippers no where near their usual break-neck tempo.
Slow Start Early
Both teams began shooting jump shots with little action to the rim as neither team couldn buy a basket in the opening minutes. A timeout at 7:16 in the opening quarter saw the score at 10-6 in favor of L.A. After losing three straight, the Bulls did not initially come out like a team hungry for a win. Pau Gasol scored seven of the Bulls first 11 points and finished with a huge game as he scored 24 points, including three for three from beyond the three point arc. Joakim Noah checked in at 4:57 in the first quarter for Taj Gibson. The Bulls gave up back to back baskets to the Clippers due to a lack of effort on the glass, prompting a timeout from Chicago Coach Fred Hoiberg with his team trailing by eight points at 19-11. The Bulls came out roaring after that timeout with a 7-0 run and closed the quarter on a 12-5 run overall. That included a buzzer beating three pointer from Gasol from the top of the key. He had 12 of the Bulls 23 first quarter points. The quarter finished 24-23 in favor of the Clippers.
Bulls Take First Lead In Quarter Two
The Bulls just kept coming and gained their first lead of the game with the first basket of the quarter coming from Nikola Mirotic off of good ball movement. Aaron Brooks got into the fun and hit a triple to give the Bulls a five point lead. Great bench play (15 points) and ice cold shooting from the Clippers were the keys to the second quarter success that saw the Bulls forge ahead with the lead. The Clippers' second team looked like they didn't want to be there and Doc Rivers quickly got his starters back in at the 6:43 mark. The score was 35-24 Bulls at the timeout. The Clippers finished the second quarter shooting 3-19 and just 33% from the floor for the half. The Bulls did not do much better at 38%, but held a nine point cushion at the half with the score at 44-35.
Griffin Ejected In Third Quarter
There were plenty of storylines in the second half. The first one seeing Derrick Rose take off his mask, which looked like a good decision by the end of the night. Taj Gibson had strong play with eight of his 12 points in the quarter. Gibson's interior game helped the Bulls greatly and wound up getting Blake Griffin ejected after an egregious clothesline to Gibson's face. Griffin was on a tear with 18 points prior to exiting at the 5:58 mark in the third quarter with the momentum in the Bulls' hands as they led by 14. With their lead up to 16, Chicago started to take their foot off the gas and did so rapidly because the Clippers would begin a come back after many viewers likely decided the game was well in-hand for Chicago. This is the NBA and these are the Chicago Bulls, who just so happened to give up a similar 16 point lead a few games ago to the Phoenix Suns, only to lose in the game's closing moments. The lead got cut to eight with two minutes remaining in the third quarter, but went to double digits as the quarter closed with Chicago leading 64-54 after a basket by Mirotic.
Clippers Pull Even In Final Quarter, Bulls Steady Themselves To Win
Derrick Rose opened the quarter for the Bulls with a jumper for a 12 point lead. The Clippers would then go to work as they made four straight threes to tie the game at 66. The Bulls would get just their second basket of the fourth quarter from Jimmy Butler at the 7:05 mark to edge ahead. At that point, the Bulls were only up by two in a rather head scratching game, where one was left wondering where is that extra gear to put Los Angeles away? The Clippers would call a timeout after a Gibson basket with the score 70-66 in favor of the Bulls. After the timeout, both teams exchanged scores making it 78-75 Bulls with 2:38 left. Rose scored nine points in the quarter, coming to life after a mostly ghastly performance earlier in the game. Wesley Johnson would scare the crowd and knock down a three to see L.A. claw within 83-80 of the Bulls, but that is where the game would finish.