CHICAGO – When the Clippers handed the Bulls their worst loss of the season Nov. 24 in Los Angeles, the emotional hangover of losing Derrick Rose to a season-ending knee injury 2 days earlier could be blamed.
The Bulls had no such excuse Friday night at the United Center.
The Clippers buried the Bulls’ recent defensive prowess in an avalanche of 3-pointers, posting opponent season highs for points in a quarter and a half in a 112-95 blowout.
Blake Griffin had 26 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists to lead six Clippers in double figures, including all five starters, as they shot 53.9 percent. That included 13 3-pointers and 61.9 percent shooting from that distance.
“Our pick-and-roll defense wasn’t very good,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Our defensive transition wasn’t very good. Our 3-point defense wasn’t very good. I don’t think any aspect of our defense was any good.”
That about covers it. The Clippers have the Bulls’ number; they shot an opponent-season-high 58.5 percent in that 121-82 drubbing in November.
Carlos Boozer returned from missing one game with a sore left calf to score 16 of his team-high 22 points in the first quarter. But the Clippers shot 73.7 percent in a 41-point first quarter to lead by as many as 15.
“That was pretty much the story of the game,” said Thibodeau, who tied the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich for the NBA coaching lead with his seventh technical foul. “We were chasing our tail the rest of the game.”
The Clippers, playing their fifth of seven straight road games, sank 10 of their first 11 3-pointers, and led 68-55 at halftime, and by as many as 21.
“I didn’t think there was any aspect of our defense that was up to what our standards are in terms of ball pressure, technique, being tied together, being disciplined,” Thibodeau said. “They share the ball, and they make you pay for mistakes.
“I just didn’t think our intensity and edge were there. A big part of that is I have to have us ready to go.”
Joakim Noah fought through foul trouble to finish with 12 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. That’s his 15th straight double-digit rebounding game, tying Dennis Rodman for the fourth-longest Bulls streak since 1977. Rodman also holds the first two, and Artis Gilmore is third.
But there were far more lowlights than highlights. Jimmy Butler missed 12 of 15 shots.
“I’m playing terrible,” Butler said. “I’m not making any shots. I’m not helping the offense. I have to fix it. I’m getting great looks. They’re just not falling for me.”
Still, scoring 95 points typically is enough for the Bulls’ defense.
“We were passive,” Butler said. “I don’t like the word soft, but we were a little bit of that too. They got to where they wanted to on the floor. We didn’t make it tough on them at all.”
Clippers 112, Bulls 95
Star of the game: Blake Griffin, Clippers, 26 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists
Key performers: Carlos Boozer, Bulls, 22 points, 9 rebounds; Joakim Noah, Bulls, 12 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists
Up next: Timberwolves at Bulls, 7 p.m. Monday
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