After a combined 2/17 beginning from both teams in this late-starting game, both sides saw stretches of heating up and then cooling back down as the lead improbably changed hands. But in the end, the Bulls just didn't have enough firepower to sustain a lead as the Clippers led for the whole 4th quarter to finish with a 94-89 victory.
The Bulls shot only 40% for the game, but they were able to stay in by doing something they've been league-worst in all season: make three pointers. They were 10-20 on the night, with a couple coming from all-over: Hinrich, Deng, Nate, with Belinelli leading the team with 4 makes.
But it masked some overall poor nights from a lot of players. Belinelli did only shoot 6-22 overall. Deng had one of his least productive games of the season, with 8 points in 40 (LOL) minutes. Joakim Noah didn't fare much better, who was stuck on only 1 field goal until late in the 4th quarter when he was able to get some tip-ins and layups but finished with 10 in his 42 (LOL) minutes of action.
And there was a point in the second half where the Bulls missed 7 threes in a row, though honestly it felt like a sound plan given the alternatives. The Bulls struggled to get any free-throw attempts, to the point where Hubie Brown (who, mind you, saw Fred Flintstone play for the Slate Quarry company team) remarked at halftime he had never seen a starting unit not attempt a free-throw after they showed that the Bulls had just done (or, didn't do) that.
They did wind up 9-12 from the stripe by the time the game was over, but it highlighted a problem with a team lacking playmakers. Though the Bulls have been surprisingly good at drawing attempts all season, on Tuesday night their perimeter players couldn't break down the defense, and Noah had an uncharacteristically slight effect on getting them from his offensive rebounds.
And when the Bulls instead tried to pass their way to the goal, what worked against some of the poorer teams did not operate as smoothly against the veteran Clippers. I'm crediting the players since we know Vinny doesn't really teach defense, as they had tremendous instincts when filling passing lanes or blitzing ballhandlers. The Bulls were forced into 16 turnovers (ok, maybe some were unforced) which opened the doors to lob city. Two points is two points, I guess, but some of those follows from Griffin and Deandre Jordan had to be demoralizing. I know they were from a fan's perspective. The Clippers were also able to get some of those lobs by exploiting the aggressive Thibs pick-and-roll defense, 'easily' (for them) going to the weak side where some giant would already be waiting with his head over the rim.
So beyond the threes, how did the Bulls stay in this one? They showed signs of their trademark defense (outside of Belinelli, who really couldn't stay with Jamal Crawford) and rebounding edge, but it was actually Carlos Boozer who was the Bulls best player. I'm as surprised as you are, but he did also have a nice game against this team in L.A., and maybe just enjoys Blake Griffin's version of defense that much. Booz finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds, and was actually aggressively getting post position, attacking the basket, diving on the floor...it was quite the good game from him.
Not nearly enough from the team overall, though. Plus I think some of the Clippers indifference and/or undisciplined play kept them from really getting the huge lead that the game probably should've seen. They blew a couple of breakaways and Griffin had a few lazy shot selections. Vinny allowed way too much involvement from the likes of Lamar Odom, Willie Green, and Ronny Turiaf, though maybe Pax choked the overplaying-starters gene out of him. And there's always the coach-on-the-floor for them in the 4th quarter, as Chris Paul did have to deal with a lot of Kirk Hinrich in his face tonight but finished with 18 points including a great penetration-and-stop move to truly seal the game.
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