The Bulls got a much needed victory Thursday night with an 83-80 win over the Clippers at the UC. The game was an ugly, grind-it-out victory for the Bulls as the score would indicate but after a three game losing streak the Bulls will take any W they can get. Leading from the 2nd quarter on, the Bulls hung on by the slimmest of margins after a desperation triple by Chris Paul was off the mark. The Clippers had been 6-1 in their last 7 games before Thursday night.
Pau Gasol had a monster game for the Bulls scoring 24 points and grabbing six boards. He was the best player on the court for either side, shooting 10/19 from the floor including 3/3 from deep. Gasol kept the Bulls in it early when it looked like the Clippers might run away with the game, and helped secure the win in the 4th with two of his three triples coming in the final frame. Gasol has been picking it up as of late having scored 22+ three out of his last five games, after not putting up that many points the first 15 games of the season.
Additionally, Derrick Rose, while not exactly in MVP form, showed signs of improvement in the second half after the masked-man forgot to grab his protection and went without it. The former MVP scored all of his points after halftime and even showed some elevation on a back-door cut that almost ended in a slam that would have brought the roof down in the UC.
Unfortunately, even in a win there were several warning signs from Thursday night’s performance. First, Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose still do not look comfortable on the floor together. Through a quarter of the season the guard pairing still lacks any sort of flow. One always has to dominate the ball and they can not work off of each other. This creates poor spacing which has forced the whole offense to come to a halt at times when these two share the court.
Two more trends continued in the game against the Clippers: an uninspired start with the Clippers beating the Bulls badly on the glass and in hustle plays, as well as poor fourth quarter offense that saw a 10 point lead entering the frame vanish within minutes. The Bulls were able to recover thanks to a pair of unexpected treys from Gasol, but the Bulls must find a way to buck this trend of starting the final frame slowly as it is sure to cost them games going forward.
Nikola Mirotic has officially lost his touch from deep. The native of Montenegro finished the night 1/5 from distance, which brings his total to 6/26 (23%) over his last five games. If Nikola can’t start knocking down some of these triples, his game will become very limited and it will only further hurt a struggling Bulls offense.
The Ugly: At the halfway point of the 3rd quarter Blake Griffin was ejected after being handed a Flagrant 2 for smacking Gibson in the head under the basket. Gibson appeared lucky to escape any injury as the replays showed Griffin winding up before striking Gibson. The loss was obviously a huge blow to the Clips as Griffin was the only Clipper able to consistently create any offense. The forward showcased his versatility with his jumper, post-moves, and driving abilities all on display. Griffin finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds in only 25 minutes before getting tossed.
Coming up: The Bulls play host to the New Orleans Pelicans and Chicago native Anthony Davis on Saturday night.