While it’s very unlikely that the Chicago Bulls are headed for an NBA title, they are showing at least a passing resemblance to the 1997-98 championship team.
Chicago looks to complete a perfect three-game trip and move a season-best six games above .500 when it faces the Los Angeles Clippers.
Ben Gordon scored 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, including a runner with 12.1 seconds left that put Chicago ahead for good, to lift the Bulls to a 100-97 victory at Seattle on Friday.
Late-game heroics have become common for Gordon, the NBA leader this season with 18 double-digit scoring performances in the final quarter.
“I’ve been playing ball my whole life, and you look forward to situations like that. I look at that situation as fun,” Gordon said. “I was just trying to make (the winning shot). I made up for the other shots I missed a little earlier.”
With its third straight win, Chicago posted back-to-back road victories over Western Conference teams for the first time since January 1998. The Bulls’ 32 wins are their most since the 1997-98 team went 62-20 and captured the franchise’s third straight NBA title.
“This is the biggest win of the season,” guard Kirk Hinrich said.
For a very young team, Chicago has performed well in close games, going 11-7 in contests decided by five points or fewer.
“I was really happy with how we kept our heads late,” Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. “We’ve had lots of close games. Our guys fought for it. I know they would have been heartbroken if we weren’t able to come up with it.”
Friday’s victory pulled the Bulls into a tie with Cleveland for fifth place in the East, moving them closer to their first playoff berth since 1997-98.
To qualify for the postseason for the first time since 1996-97, the Clippers will have to pass Denver, the Lakers and Minnesota.
The Clippers nearly won in Sacramento for the first time since Nov. 7, 1997, but Mike Bibby’s 22-footer with four-tenths of a second to play lifted the Kings to a 113-112 victory Friday.
Corey Maggette had 26 points and 10 rebounds, and teammate Bobby Simmon added 24 points for Los Angeles, 1-10 in its last 11 road games.
“This stinks,” guard Rick Brunson said. “We played hard, played good and didn’t win. We knew they were going to Bibby. It was just a matter of, ‘Can you stop him?’ Mike makes big shots. That’s what he does.”
Point guard Marko Jaric practiced with the Clippers on Thursday for the first time in almost a month and could return Sunday. Jaric, sidelined since Feb. 11, is fourth on the team with 10.5 points per game.