Clippers get a lift in road win over Bulls
They haven’t had many impressive moments on the road this season, so it’s not surprising the Clippers were especially upbeat Tuesday night after finishing strong and defeating the Chicago Bulls, 103-89, in front of a sellout crowd of 22,426 at the United Center.
The Clippers outperformed one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams late in the fourth quarter, making key plays to complete a timely victory that helped them in a tight race for the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff berth.
The Clippers didn’t perform as if they have one of the NBA’s worst road records, getting big games from Elton Brand (21 points, 12 rebounds and five assists), Cuttino Mobley (25 points) and Corey Maggette (22 points and five assists), and another lift off the bench from Daniel Ewing, who scored his 11 points in the fourth quarter.
With the victory, the Clippers pulled closer to the Golden State Warriors, who still lead by percentage points, for the conference’s last postseason berth. And the Clippers improved to 2-3 on a 10-day trip that ends tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks, receiving some positive reinforcement after playing well in stretches in their recent road losses.
The Clippers (31-36) have only 15 games remaining, and would be out of the playoffs if the season ended today, but they are still in the mix for extended play after outplaying the Bulls on their home court.
“They played better than us in a lot of facets of the game,” Chicago Coach Scott Skiles said. “It appeared they wanted it more than we did. As a result, they got a win they deserved.”
No arguments from the Clippers, who say they are in must-win mode now.
“We’re really looking at all these teams, all these games, and saying we have to win to try to take care of business in this playoff race,” said Maggette, who made 14 of 17 free throws.
“The Bulls are a team we had to beat. We knew it was going to be tough, they’re a really good team at home, but our team just came to play hard.”
Chicago (39-30) is fifth in the Eastern standings. At 25-9, the Bulls have one of the league’s best home-court records. The Clippers are only 10-24 as a visiting team.
Moreover, Sam Cassell, who has back spasms, was inactive for the third game on the trip, making things more difficult for Coach Mike Dunleavy.
Newcomer Jason Hart is still learning what Dunleavy expects from point guards, and second-year guard Ewing, despite playing well at times, is considered better suited to play the other guard spot.
But Ewing delivered late in the game.
After the score was tied, 78-78, in the fourth, Ewing made a 12-foot bank shot in a 6-0 run to help the Clippers take an 84-78 lead with 6 minutes 21 seconds remaining. He made a 14-foot jumper to extend the lead to six again, 90-84, with 3:11 to go and his three-point shot with 1:18 to play triggered a celebration on the Clippers’ bench and prompted many in attendance to leave.
“We’ve been playing pretty well on the whole trip, but it just hadn’t been showing up in victories for us,” Dunleavy said. “Obviously, I’m pleased.”
Chris Kaman and Ewing anchored the defense, helping the Clippers limit the Bulls to 30.4% shooting from the field in the fourth.
Kirk Hinrich scored 29 points and Ben Wallace had 19 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists for the Bulls, but they shot 42% overall from the field. Ben Gordon and Luol Deng shot a combined seven for 27.
“For most of the game,” Hinrich said, “we just got out-executed.”