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Bulls thwart Clippers comeback by being slightly less terrible, win 83-80

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Blake Griffin got ejected, the Clippers looked bad, the Bulls looked almost as bad, and the game was a disgrace to organization athletics. In the end, the Bulls won.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Can you put a game tape in a canister and then just bury it in the ground somewhere out in Death Valley? If so, that’s what both teams should do. Tonight’s game was an abomination to the sport of basketball. Each side took shots like they were drunken Stormtroopers trying to lay siege on Endor. They shot, and shot, and shot, and shot, and missed, and missed, and shot, and missed, and shot, and missed. It was disgraceful. They should feel bad for their performance tonight – all of them. But, in the end, the Chicago Bulls overcame their own horrid shooting night by beating the Los Angeles Clippers, 83-80.

1 2 3 4 Total
Los Angeles Clippers 24 11 19 26 80
Chicago Bulls 23 21 20 19 83

The game started off beautifully for the Clippers. Blake Griffin connected on his first four shots of the evening, the Clippers rolled out to an early 19-11 lead after 8:32, and it appeared like the team was going to just waltz their way towards a glorious win on the second night of a back-to-back. Except, well, that didn’t happen. During a stretch of time that spanned the 3:20 mark of the first quarter until the 6:00 mark of the third quarter, the Clippers shot a woeful 7-of-38 (18.4 percent) from the field. They were outscored 46-24, and it ended with Griffin getting ejected for a Flagrant 2 foul on Taj Gibson. Nothing was going Los Angeles’ way – and then the run started.

After Griffin’s ejection, the Clippers found themselves down by 16 points. Doc Rivers put Josh Smith into the game, and then magic happened. In the final 6 minutes of the third quarter, the Clippers trimmed the Chicago lead down to just 10. As the fourth quarter got underway, the Clippers went down by 12 until a 12-0 run happened. The run was delivered via four threes – two by Josh Smith, one by Austin Rivers, and by Wesley Johnson. We were deadlocked at 66 apiece with 7:19 to go, but the Clippers were never able to take the lead.

The teams exchanged buckets down the stretch. Derrick Rose hit a three, Lance Stephenson hit a three, Pau Gasol hit one right back, Chris Paul hit a three, Rose made a layup, Paul hit a three from near Springfield, Illinois, and then Aaron Brooks got fouled on a three and made all three free throws. With 45 seconds to go, the Clippers found themselves down by 6 points. That is until Wesley Johnson hit another huge three to cut the lead in half. Jimmy Butler missed an open shot in the paint, the Clippers got the rebound, and they had chance to tie. Unfortunately, Chris Paul’s three-point attempt fell off the mark at the end, and the Clippers had to suffer a tough loss while Blake Griffin sat in the locker room for the final 18 minutes.

Tonight's Box Score: NBA Game Book

Let’s get this out of the way. Outside of Blake Griffin, no one really shot well enough to be a factor for the vast majority of this game. Griffin went 7-of-14 from the field. When he was ejected, the rest of the team was a lovely 9-of-44. So, it wasn’t great. Griffin did grab 11 rebounds, dish out 2 assists, and block 2 shots prior to his dismissal. He wasn’t great, but he was pretty much the only guy on the team doing anything positive offensively.

Safe to say that Chris Paul struggled tonight. He was only 5-of-16, and totaled 12 points, 5 assists, but had 4 turnovers. He hit two huge threes in the fourth, but messed up several times down the stretch. In a game that was sloppy, Paul embodied that at the end. One of those nights. DeAndre Jordan had 10 points and 14 rebounds, but was a ghost on defense. Anyone who watched that game, and has watched them this season, can see that Jordan is giving shooting big men way too much space to operate. It happened again – and the result was devastating.

After scoring 31 points last night, Redick shot just 2-of-11 tonight and finished with 8 points. He struggled, but so did everyone. Luc Mbah a Moute had 5 points and 6 rebounds, but was just 2-of-9. He had a sequence where he got blocked like three times in two seconds. So, not fun. Jamal Crawford was 1-of-5, Austin Rivers was 1-of-6, and Paul Pierce was 0-of-2. They combined for 5 points on 13 shots. Not great, Bob. In other news, the Pierce-Crawford combination played 5 minutes together – and posted a -133.3 Net Rating. They’ve now played 279 minutes together, which is the 12th most minutes by a duo on the team, and posted a -11.2 Net Rating. Sweet.

The three key players for the Clippers tonight, at least once Griffin went down, were Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson, and Wesley Johnson. Smith was just 3-of-8, but he had 8 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, and hit two massive threes to give the Clippers life. Johnson had 9 points and 4 rebounds on 3-of-6 from the field, as well as 3-of-4 from deep. Johnson has been everything the team could have hoped for. His huge three with a half-minute to go gave the team a chance. Finally, Stephenson logged 18:26 of action, and finished +8 after not playing a single second in the first half. He had 5 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, and 1 steal on 2-of-4 shooting. He was the engine during the comeback. It’s about time Doc unleashed him again.

Opposition's Blog: Blog a Bull

Did anyone help the Bulls more than Pau Gasol did? He finished with a game-high 24 points, as well as 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. He shot 10-of-19 overall, and a staggering 3-of-3 from deep. He basically dared DeAndre Jordan to guard him on the perimeter all night, but Jordan never wanted to. The end result was Gasol unleashing open shot after open shot, and the Clippers just had to deal with it. It was the kind of night that the Bulls needed out of the Spaniard while everyone else struggled.

Jimmy Butler finished with 14 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks, but he only shot 4-of-14. It was a tough night offensively for him, but it was for everyone. His value on the defensive end showed up as he helped keep J.J. Redick at bay. He even switched onto Chris Paul a few times down the stretch. Butler’s a good one. One of the top two-way players in the league. No doubt about that.

While he struggled through the first three quarters, Derrick Rose scored 9 of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, including a three. He has spurts of old Rose here and there, but it’s pretty painful to watch him now. He still helped the Bulls down the stretch, though. Taj Gibson had 12 points and 8 rebounds, and was the recipient of Blake Griffin’s Flagrant 2 foul. It wasn’t malicious by Griffin at all, but any swing that connects with the head is a risky thing. Tony Snell had just 2 points and 4 rebounds in his 22:09.

Off the bench, the Bulls got solid production from Joakim Noah and Nikola Mirotic. The duo shot just 3-of-13 combined, but they tallied 24 total rebounds. That’s a huge deal. Aaron Brooks had 10 points off the bench, which was highlighted by a made three and then three free throws after getting fouled on another attempt. Kirk Hinrich also hit a three himself and finished with 3 points. Doug McDermott was 0-of-5 and finished with 0 points, 0 rebounds, and 0 assists, but he somehow was a game-high +14. Just one of those nights.

PARTING SHOTS

Losses suck. Especially ones where your team had a chance at the end but couldn’t pull it out. However, you have to break this one down. Everyone on the team, minus Blake Griffin, supremely struggled for the better part of three quarters. The team still fought, still clawed, and still had a chance to tie at the end of regulation. It just didn’t work out. The energy provided by Stephenson, Smith, and Johnson was something that was sorely needed, and maybe it means that trio will play more going forward. Then again, no one knows.

It was a Chicago pace tonight (91.66), yet the Clippers stayed with them despite shooting 34.1 percent. Maybe this loss will wake the team up and get them going in the right direction. It’s only one loss after winning 6 of 7. It’s best to keep that in mind. As it stands, the Clippers are now 13-10. The team must regroup quickly as they have to travel to play the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday afternoon (2:00 PM PT). We’ll see what Clippers team comes out and plays then. If we get the one who showed up in the first three quarters, then it could be another tough game. If it’s the one who showed up in the last quarter, the one with the energy and passion to win, then it could be a good day. Just keep Jarrett Jack away from us, though.