Clippers escape with win against Bulls
Derrick Rose was confident he'd make both free throws with 0.8 seconds left. His former coach, Vinny Del Negro, thought so, too.
Rose hit the first Saturday night to bring the Chicago Bulls within a point. But he misfired on the second, the horn sounded and Del Negro had a triumphant return to the United Center as the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Bulls 100-99.
''You never want to see that. Derrick is a tough kid. He's made so many and he'll make so many more in his career — free throws, big shots,'' Del Negro said ''The game should have never come down to that.''
Blake Griffin had 29 points and 12 rebounds for his 15th straight double-double to lead the Clippers, who stopped Chicago's seven-game winning streak. Before winning a pair of road games the past two nights, Los Angeles had lost 15 consecutive games away from home, including its first 11 this season.
The Clippers had an eight-point lead with 1:08 left after a pair of driving baskets by Baron Davis. But Rose brought the Bulls back with a three-point play and then a feed to Carlos Boozer for a layup that cut it to two.
After a miss by the Clippers, Rose took the ball to the basket between two Clippers and was fouled by Rasual Butler just as the buzzer sounded. Officials checked a replay to make sure he was fouled before time expired.
He then went to the line, made the first and missed the second.
''I thought I was going to hit them. That's basketball. I hope I get put in that position again. I know I'm not going to miss it,'' said Rose, who led all scorers with 34 points. ''It felt good, but I left it a bit short.''
Del Negro was fired as Bulls coach last May after going 82-82 in two seasons and having two first-round playoff exits. His tenure also included an altercation with Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson.
Coming back and winning was satisfying.
''Obviously, this one is a little bit more special since it's in Chicago,'' said Del Negro, greeted with a few boos when introduced. He told his team after the game it was a great present.
Before the game, as he was engulfed by cameras and recorders, Del Negro said he enjoyed his two seasons with the Bulls.
''I'm very proud of what we accomplished,'' he said. ''The team is in a much better position now after the two years I was here. ... I've moved on. They've moved on.''
Now, Del Negro is running a team that got off to a horrendous start but has shown promise. After losing their first 11 away from home, the Clippers posted their first road victory Friday night in Detroit and then carried that momentum into Chicago.
''We're definitely improving, that's evident,'' Griffin said. ''I was just being aggressive. Thankfully I hit some shots early and it got me going.''
It was also the Bulls' first game since starting center Joakim Noah underwent surgery on his thumb earlier in the week, a ligament injury that will sideline him for eight to 10 weeks. Chicago missed his defense more than his 14 points and 11.7 rebounds per game.
Noah's replacement, Taj Gibson, left the game in the third quarter with a concussion. He finished with three points and two rebounds. And the Bulls just couldn't defend Griffin. Veteran big man Kurt Thomas tried and fouled out in 16 minutes.
''You're definitely going to miss somebody like Joe, but there's no excuses,'' Rose said.
The Bulls ran off the first six points of the third to cut the lead to two, but a 16-6 Clippers run featuring two slams by Griffin and Eric Gordon's 3-pointer boosted it to 12. Los Angeles led by seven entering the final quarter.
Notes: Clippers F Brian Cook missed the game after spraining his right ankle in the final minute of Friday night's win.