CHICAGO — Winning games without all-star point guard Chris Paul is a challenge for the Los Angeles Clippers, but they displayed a successful formula Friday in Chicago.
While his teammates shot the lights out from 3-point range, forward Blake Griffin produced 26 points, 13 rebounds and a team-high seven assists as the hot-shooting Clippers beat the Chicago Bulls 112-95 on Friday at the United Center.
The Clippers knocked down 10 of their first 11 attempts from 3-point range and the Bulls never got closer than eight points after falling behind 41-26 in the first quarter. Overall, the Clippers went 13 for 21 from long range.
“It’s really about our ball movement offensively that gets us those shots,” Griffin said. “When guys hit shots like that, then you have guys like DeAndre (Jordan) finishing down low, it makes it tough on teams.”
Guard Jamal Crawford added 19 points, guard J.J. Redick scored 18 and guard Darren Collison finished with 17. The Clippers shot 54 percent as a team and are now 11-2 at the United Center since the 2000-01 season.
“It was our ball movement. That was terrific tonight,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “We talked about that after the Charlotte game (a loss on Wednesday) where the ball never got to the other side of the floor.”
Forward Carlos Boozer led the Bulls with 22 points. Forward Taj Gibson scored 18, forward Mike Dunleavy had 17, while center Joakim Noah finished with 13 rebounds, 12 points and seven assists. Chicago came into this one with nine wins in its last 11 games.
The Clippers (30-15) came out scorching hot, shooting 74 percent overall in the first quarter while scoring 41 points — a season-high for a Bulls opponent.
“That was pretty much the story of the game,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said of the first quarter. “We were chasing our tail the rest of the game.”
The game followed a consistent pattern. Trailing by 15 after one quarter, Chicago closed within 45-37 midway through the second after a Gibson jumper. The Clippers answered with a 12-2 run, capped by a fast-break alley-oop from Griffin to center DeAndre Jordan, and the lead was 60-39.
Early in the third quarter, the Bulls climbed within nine points on a layup by Boozer. The Clippers came back with an 8-0 run to push the advantage to 76-59 on a lay-in by Griffin with 7:34 left in the third.
“When Chris went out, we looked to Blake for leadership,” Rivers said. “When we hit 3-point shots like tonight, it stretches the defense. When we can make them spread the floor, it gives Blake space and that’s a big difference.”
Consecutive 3-pointers by forward Dunleavy sparked a response by the Bulls, who got within 78-70 on a 3-pointer by guard D.J. Augustin. Collison, starting at point guard in place of Paul, scored the Clippers’ next 10 points and the lead was back up to 21 when a Crawford 3-pointer made it 101-80 two minutes into the fourth quarter.
The Bulls (21-21) got the lead down to 12 points a couple times, but it did no good. This was their second loss to the Clippers this season. They lost by 39 points in Los Angeles on Nov. 24, the first game after guard Derrick Rose suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Chicago started the night ranked second in the league in points allowed (92.5) and third in defensive field-goal percentage (.429).
“We made it real hard on ourselves because we gave them confidence to start the game,” Thibodeau added. “Offensively, I thought we were good enough. Defensively, I thought we were very poor. I don’t think there was any aspect of our defense that was up to what our standards are.”
NOTES: Bulls G Kirk Hinrich missed his second straight game with a right hamstring strain and coach Tom Thibodeau does not expect Hinrich to make the trip to Charlotte for Saturday’s contest. … Bulls F Carlos Boozer returned after missing one game with a left calf strain. … Clippers coach Doc Rivers pumped up C DeAndre Jordan as an all-star reserve before Friday’s game. “He’s the best defensive player in the league, in my opinion.,” Rivers said. … After Rivers said the Bulls would be nuts to let Thibodeau coach anywhere else next season, Thibodeau made a joke about people questioning whether he might leave. “The rumor about my date with (model) Kate Upton, started by me, I’m not commenting on that, either,” he said. “So let’s move on.” … Thibodeau said he is in favor of G Derrick Rose playing for Team USA this summer at the FIBA World Cup in Spain, provided Rose is recovered from surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee. “If his health is there, I think it makes a lot of sense,” said Thibodeau, who will serve as an assistant coach on the Team USA staff.
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