Los Bulls entered the game already down Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson, and they lost Jimmy Butler too to an elbow injury early in the second half. Don't let this take away from the Clippers' impressive performance, though, as they improved to 6-3 sans Blake Griffin, courtesy of a tough grind-it-out victory over Chicago, pulling away in the fourth quarter. Matt Barnes also suffered a hamstring injury attempting to intercept a pass in the second quarter, but returned to the floor shortly thereafter — although indications are that he'll sit tomorrow night's SEGABABA in Minnesota to avoid aggravating that leg thanks to a Kevin Garnett illegal screen special.
The usual suspects dominated for Los Angeles; after an NBA-season high 17 rebounds in the first half, DeAndre Jordan finished with 9 points and 26 boards (giving him the two most prolific rebounding games in the league this season), and stymied the Bulls' half-hearted Deck-a-DJ tactics late in the game by splitting free throws and discouraging Chicago with his defense on the other end.
And of course, Chris Paul yet again simply shined. 28 points on 12-of-19 shooting (including 12-15 inside the arc) and 12 assists underline how cruelly effective he was today. Although we didn't get any highlight crossovers like we saw in Memphis Friday night (Aaron Brooks and Pau Gasol never got close enough to him for that to happen), we did see CP3 yet again boost the Clippers' offense every time the Bulls took the lead and seemed to have Los Angeles scrambling.
On the Bulls' end, the team MVP was without a doubt Nikola Mirotic. From the moment he entered the game he was a matchup nightmare for the Clippers, who struggled to find the personnel to defend him (although Doc refused to play him for more than a brief stretch, I maintain the answer was Hedo Turkoglu, who contested him on one end and took him off the dribble for a finger roll on the other), thanks to his combination of size, speed, and shooting. When the Bulls looked ready to fade in the first quarter, down 11 early, he helped bring them back into the game alongside fellow reserve Tony Snell, who continued his stretch of hot play with a 13-point effort today (3-5 beyond the arc).
Mirotic finished with 29 and was perhaps the only reason the Bulls stayed competitive as long as they did in the fourth quarter, abusing a weary Matt Barnes at times, courtesy of crisp high-low passing from Joakim Noah. In fact, he was almost the only Bull to score in the fourth quarter — 16 of the Bulls' 17, with the other coming off a Noah free throw.
Here credit has to be given to the Clips' defense, who showed up again ready to play. Spencer Hawes was once again solid in the post — on both ends (and played well offensively in the third quarter, making two threes; he finished the game with a not-unimpressive 14 and 9). And we can't go any further without mentioning the Clippers blocking 12 shots today. This included an absolutely fabulous stuff of Pau Gasol by Jamal Crawford (yes, you read that right), among other fantastic blocks.
I wanted to also link Austin Rivers' posterization of Nikola Mirotic, after a possession on which he secured two of his own offensive rebounds, but the impressive would-be-dunk somehow rolled and rattled out of the rim (it has to be mentioned that it was not at all an embarrassing play, just an unlucky one, to those Doogie haters skulking in the game thread).
The Clippers will now travel to Minneapolis for a back-to-back tilt tomorrow night against the frisky Wolves. Unfortunately, their current level of play is much better than record shows, and behind a surging Andrew Wiggins and the likes of Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, and Kevin Garnett, this will be a challenging matchup for a Clippers team at the end of a four-game roadtrip.