The Clippers starters were tired of giving “A Tribe Called Bench,” and/or “Lawler’s Law Enforcement Agency,” all the minutes and spotlight. Led by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Clipper’s top names came out with perhaps their best intensity of the season to grind out a win over the Bulls, both snapping Chicago’s 3-game winning streak, but extending their own unbeaten string to seven games.
Chris Paul had 18 points and 4 assists, with Blake Griffin pouring in 22 points and pulling down 10 rebounds to lead Los Angeles. Caron Butler his three 3-pointers to add nine points, with DeAndre Jordan scoring 7 points to go along with 10 rebounds. And, for a change, the starters handed off leads to their bench.
“I kind of forgot what it was like to play in the fourth quarter,” said Paul, who hadn’t seen late action since Dec. 3 at Utah. “But at the end, we knew we were on the road and we’d have to withstand a run we knew they would make. Our defense kept us in the game.”
It really was the Clippers defense – both from their starters and bench – that ultimately doomed Chicago. Indeed, the Clippers let virtually nothing go unchallenged and were active throughout. After one period the score was only 21-18, with both teams letting nothing go and the referees allowing a physical contest and holding their whistles. Carlos Boozer and Joachim Noah were the Bull’s primary scorers early, with both players feeding off putbacks on offensive rebounds. Boozer finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds to lead Chicago. Noah finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds, though this game marked the first time Chicago has lost this season when Boozer and Noah notch double-doubles.
And then there was Blake Griffin.
Chicago simply had no answer to Griffin, who powered his way to the basket for dunks, showed his jump shot with two early buckets, and even hit a 3-pointer, his first of the season in the 2nd quarter.
“Games on the road like this, after we had a little bit of success, six games, coming on the road, you don’t want to have a letdown,” Griffin said. “Chicago’s a tough team. These are the kinds of wins you need.”
With the win, the Clippers have started their four game road trip on a promising note, especially since they will be going into Charlotte on Wednesday to play the Bobcats, who have dropped nine in a row.