With Derrick Rose attacking, the court opened up for the rest of the Chicago Bulls. They hit their shots and Rose did just about everything else to help his team wrap up a successful season-opening West Coast trip.
Rose had 29 points and 16 assists, and the Bulls pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 114-101 Friday night.
”I just wanted to win. That was the biggest thing,” he said. ”It was a lot of hype because this was their first home game.”
Luol Deng and Joakim Noah added 19 points apiece and Richard Hamilton had 16 for the Bulls against their former coach, Vinny Del Negro.
”Derrick is just a handful and we all know that,” said Del Negro, who coached Rose his first two seasons in Chicago. ”I didn’t think we ganged up on him enough. He got too many free throws, but he also hit some tough shots in the fourth quarter, stepping behind the line and hitting some 3s. And when he does that, it puts a lot more pressure on you.”
Blake Griffin had 34 points and 13 rebounds for the Clippers, who kept it close most of the way coming off a 25-point loss at San Antonio. Caron Butler added 16 points and Chris Paul had 15 points and 14 assists in his matchup against Rose, the NBA’s MVP last season.
”We were up to the challenge, and we were capable (of winning),” Griffin said. ”But we’ve got 63 more, so we’ll be all right. We’re going to win games, but we’ve got to get better defensively. I’ve got to do a better job with my shot selection and knock down those jumpers.”
The Clippers, who outshot the Bulls and outscored them in the paint, got within three early in the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer by rookie Trey Thompkins.
Then the Bulls took over.
Ronnie Brewer hit a 3-pointer and made two free throws before Rose made two free throws, then Deng hit a 3-pointer from in front of the Clippers’ bench to give Chicago a 97-84 lead.
”It makes me feel good knowing that I have shooters,” Rose said. ”Everybody was hitting the shots they were supposed to hit. That is the difference this year. We’re way better (offensively).”
Griffin singlehandedly fueled the Clippers’ offense with eight straight points that included a ferocious dunk in which he walked away with his fists clenched and his teeth gritted. Still, it left his team trailing by eight points with less than five minutes to play.
The Bulls effectively used 3-pointers to keep the Clippers at bay in the fourth, when they hit four, including two by Rose.
”They were getting to the rim, kicking out, doing a good job of finding guys for corner 3s, and they had guys spotting up on the perimeter,” Griffin said. ”So we’ve got to do a better job of helping and getting out and contesting those 3s. I can live with contested 3s, but not wide-open ones.”
The Bulls finished their trip with a 3-1 mark, losing at Golden State. Rose was disgusted with his effort in the eight-point loss on Monday.
”The last two games he’s been very, very aggressive and our team has played with a lot of force offensively,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ”Derrick showed a good resolve.”
Chicago moved out to a seven-point lead in the third quarter, when the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan picked up his fourth foul and was forced to sit down for more than eight minutes. He finished with 10 points.
”I guess I can’t play that aggressive,” he said.
Mo Williams and Butler hit consecutive 3-pointers as part of a 13-6 run that helped the Clippers tie the game at 77. But the Bulls answered with six straight points while the Clippers missed their final five shots to lead 83-77 going into the fourth. Deng had 10 points in the quarter.
The Bulls closed on a 10-2 run, including four straight by Noah, to lead 57-52 at halftime. The first two quarters were mostly back and forth, with the Clippers leading by eight in the first 12 minutes.
Griffin and Paul took to the court before tipoff to thank the fans for their support, with Griffin saying, ”We’re going to try to make this a season you won’t forget.”
Los Angeles opened with a bang, making its first six shots, with Paul feeding Griffin for a two-handed dunk on the Clippers’ first basket. Jordan had the crowd roaring with his one-handed dunk off a ball tossed toward the basket by Butler.
Notes: The Clippers fell to 5-8 in home openers at Staples Center. … Rose heard chants of ”MVP” when he was at the free throw line. ”It’s great, especially when you’re on the road,” he said. … Paul has yet to beat Rose in five career games. His previous four losses came when Paul played for New Orleans. … Clippers PA announcer David Courtney introduced Williams as Chauncey Billups during pregame intros. Billups was the first player introduced and he sat out with a sore right groin. … Boxer Floyd Mayweather attended the game.