Game Notes: Clippers at Bulls
The Clippers win a close shave.
by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford
Wins have been hard to come by for Vinny Del Negro and his young Los Angeles Clippers squad this season. While the Chicago Bulls were on a 7-game winning streak coming into Saturday night’s game, the Clippers achieved their first road win of the season the night before in Detroit and Del Negro returned to the United Center — looking to get another road victory — for the first time since being fired by the Bulls after their Playoff loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers last season.
Albeit a little grayer, presumably due to his team’s early season struggles, Vinny Del Negro spoke with pride about the opportunity to have coached for two seasons in the Windy City.
“I’m very proud of what we accomplished here in two years and I appreciate having an opportunity to coach the Bulls,” said Del Negro reflecting before the game. “I’m proud of the coaches I had here, I’m proud of the players and the development of Joakim and Taj and Luol, and just everyone involved. I’m very proud.”
The Bulls would begin playing the first of many games without their star center, the aforementioned Joakim Noah, who’d undergone a successful surgery earlier in the week to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb, the exact same injury that current Washington Wizards guard (and former Chicago Bull) Kirk Hinrich had two seasons ago.
Right off the bat you could tell that Chicago missed his energy.
“I thought we didn’t come out with the right intensity to start the game,” said Tom Thibodeau. “So they got going.”
That they did.
The Clippers came out aggressive from the very beginning. 30 seconds into regulation Baron Davis (16 points, 7 assists) found Blake Griffin (29 points, 12 rebounds) on an alley-oop lob that not only set the tone, but sent a message to the Bulls early that they weren’t going to pushed around.
“I expected a tough Bulls defense,” said Griffin. “They told me to just play aggressive.”
Los Angeles scored the first 7 points of the game and 2 minutes into regulation they found themselves ahead 10-2 on Chicago.
Carlos Boozer (25 points, 4 rebounds), Luol Deng (17 points, 8 rebounds), and Derrick Rose (34 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists) carried the load offensively to get the Bulls back in it the first quarter and at the end of the first 12 minutes of play, Chicago held 31-28 lead over Los Angeles going into the second quarter but the Clippers would not go away.
In the second quarter the Bulls somehow found a way to neutralize Griffin offensively as he shot 1-3 from the field, but he contributed in other ways by getting to the free-throw line and connecting on 5 of 6 attempts and he also grabbed 3 rebounds and dished out 4 assists as the Clippers saw major production off of their bench who led the way offensively.
Rasual Butler scored 11 points in the quarter on 4-6 shooting from the field which included connecting on 3 treys in 4 attempts. Craig Smith also came off the bench to contribute 8 points and 4 rebounds as the Clippers outscored the Bulls 33-22 in the second quarter and went into halftime with a 61-53 led.
Derrick Rose exploded offensively coming out of intermission as he asserted himself and led all scorers with 15 points on 6-8 shooting from the field. But his supporting cast would give him no help whatsoever as the 8 players who saw minutes in the second quarter combined to score just 8 points.
To make matters worse for the already short-handed Bulls, Taj Gibson would have to leave the game after taking an inadvertent knee to the head and would suffer a concussion.
Gibson, who after the game was sporting a huge bump on the left side of his head and was pretty much incoherent giving his postgame comments, had virtually no memory of the game whatsoever.
“I don’t remember what happened, to tell you the truth,” said Gibson. “All I remember is being in the training room and sitting up. I remember just running down the court. I don’t remember what happened. I really don’t remember the play. Most things are in a blur right now.”
The Clippers led the Bulls 83-76 going into the final quarter and Chicago, as they have all season, showed why no lead by the opposition is safe.
Led by Rose and Boozer, the Bulls fought back and mounted a furious comeback. The Clippers, in spite of some timely shot making by both Davis and Griffin during clutch moments, could not seem to put Chicago away.
Chicago found themselves down by 2 points with the clock running down in regulation and put the ball in the hands of Derrick Rose. Rose, who had not been getting calls all night from the officials despite his trademark aggressive drives to the hoop, drove the length of the court through multiple Los Angeles defenders and drew contact at the rim as time expired. The referees convened and came to the conclusion that not only was Rose fouled on his shot attempt, but there was .8 of seconds left in regulation. But more importantly, Rose was sent to the foul line with a chance to tie the game and send it into overtime.
No pressure, right?
Rose, made the first one and the second attempt was just a little short as DeAndre Jorrdan grabbed the carom as time expired and the Clippers escaped with a 100-99 victory, winning back-to-back games on the road and improving their record to 7-21.
“I’m not even talking about that. He makes that free throw 9 out of 10 times,” said Carlos Boozer after the game. “He’s already won I don’t even know how many games for us. We’re not going to sit here and dwell on that. We’ll put it back in his hands on Tuesday [against the 76ers].”
Said Rose on the miss, “Things like this are going to happen. I think this is my first miss like this since high school. But that’s what you want as a player. It looks good on your resume. I brought my resume back down — missing one — until I show you all that I can hit those shots.”
No need to prove anything, Pooh. That’s basketball. It happens.