The Los Angeles Clippers came into Chicago winners of 3 straight games, and the Chicago Bulls entered the game losers of 3 straight games, something had to give.
The Bulls (12-8) won a close one in Chicago down the stretch, 83-80 to end a three game losing streak. Pau Gasol scored 24 points, including a career high three long-distance shots to propel the Bulls to the win.
Chicago had a 16 point lead late in the third period and saw it slip away when the Clippers tied the game at 66 on a trey by Josh Smith. It was a dogfight the rest of the way, but the Bulls made enough plays to come away with a W. Derrick Rose hit a basket with 0:45 remaining to make it 83-77. But Wesley Johnson of LA hit a triple to bring the Clips to within 3 points. Jimmy Butler made a nice move close to the basket to get himself into position but missed his runner. LA called timeout with 6 seconds remaining. Chris Paul took the potential game-tying trey but missed and the Bulls could exhale.
Chicago has given up large leads lately in games. But this time, they dug in.
“We have an opportunity to do something special,” said Gasol. “I would hate it if we would throw it away ourselves.”
Derrick Rose scored nine of his 11 points in the 4th quarter and showed flashes of the “old” D-Rose. His trey with 5:15 in the 4th quarter was a big shot. He played in the second half without his protective mask, which he has been using since he returned to action following a surgery to repair a broken orbital bone above his left eye.
The Bulls caught a break when Blake Griffin was called for a flagrant 2 foul and ejected from the game with 5:59 in the third quarter. He swiped Taj Gibson in the head and face with his arm knocking him to the ground. He helped Gibson up and it seemed the foul was inadvertent, but it was called and Griffin was gone. Gibson converted both free-throws to give the Bulls a 16 point lead; a lead which didn’t last long. The Clippers fought back and minutes later, we had a tie game. Chris Paul launched a bomb of a shot that went in to stun the crowd.
Chicago shot 36% for the game, but LA made only 34% of its field goal attempts. The Bulls gave up a season low 80 points to an opponent. Jimmy Butler scored 14 points the night after he put in 36 in a losing effort in Boston. Taj Gibson got the start at forward and scored 12 points with 8 rebounds. The Bulls out-rebounded Boston 54-52 in the game.
This was a much-needed win against a quality team. However, Chicago needs to get its offense in gear. They host the Pelicans on Saturday.