Clippers 102, Bulls 92
LOS ANGELES (AP)—The Los Angeles Clippers have done well in home games before beginning road trips. This one was more important than the others because of what follows.
Corey Maggette scored 28 points and Elton Brand had 20 points and 11 rebounds Tuesday night to help the Clippers say goodbye to Staples Center for the next 22 days with a 102-92 victory over the Chicago Bulls.
It was the Clippers’ second wire-to-wire victory this season. The other was Dec. 15 at home, when they beat New Orleans 109-80.
“You always want to get the getaway game and take that positive feeling on the road with you,” Quentin Richardson said. “They came in and played hard and played aggressively. We just had to weather the storm and play the right way.”
The Clippers are 7-2 in home games immediately preceding road trips. They will be the visitors for all eight of their remaining games before the All-Star game, while Staples Center gets ready to host the event and also stages the Grammy Awards. They won’t return home until Feb. 19.
“We’ve been struggling on the road, but there are teams on this trip that we can beat,” Brand said. “We just have to bring the intensity, bring the fire and just compete every single night, like we have. We won’t have a lot of back-to-backs, just two, which is also a great help. We should be right at .500 or maybe a game above when we get back. Everybody’s talking about the road woes, but we’re hungry and we’re excited about the trip.”
Eddie Robinson came off the bench to score 17 and Marcus Fizer scored eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter for the Bulls, who have dropped their last 21 road games against Western Conference teams. They began a seven-game trip with their seventh loss in eight games and fifth straight away from home.
The Clippers have beaten Chicago seven straight times, only the fourth time they have had that long a streak against one team during their 20 seasons in Los Angeles. They had winning streaks of 11 against Dallas, 10 against Minnesota and eight against Denver.
Robinson, who missed the last two games with a strained groin, made three outside jumpers in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter as the Bulls kept chipping away at a 19-point deficit. A 3-pointer by Rick Brunson brought them to 90-78 with 7 1/2 minutes remaining but would get no closer than 10 after a 3-pointer by Los Angeles’ Chris Jefferies made it 98-88 with 1:31 left.
The Clippers led 51-43 at halftime after opening the game with a 20-8 run. Corie Blount grabbed eight rebounds in the second quarter to help Chicago close the gap to four with a minute left in the half, but Quentin Richardson and Maggette responded with 3-pointers.
“I think it was a combination of their fast start and our slow start,” Brunson said. “We’ve got to come out better as a team and get more energy from every guy on the roster. And when we start doing that and be consistent with that, I think we’re going to be in a lot of games.”
Los Angeles shot 13-for-19 in the third quarter and used a 9-0 run to build take their biggest lead of the game, 81-62, on a 3-pointer by Jamal Crawford with 9:09 left in the quarter.
“Our biggest problem has been consistency. We’re too up-and-down,” Bulls rookie point guard Kirk Hinrich said. “There are stretches in the game where we play really well and others where we play really bad. There’s not too muchin between.”
Chris Kaman and Marko Jaric of the Clippers and were selected to play in the annual exhibition game during All-Star weekend that pits the league’s top rookies against the best second-year players who aren’t in the “varsity” game. Hinrich also was chosen. … Clippers broadcaster Ralph Lawler worked his 1,500th consecutive game, putting him 1,838 behind the late Chick Hearn. The Clippers are 499-1001 since Lawler began his streak on Oct. 25, 1985. He was presented with a bottle of champagne at courtside by two Clippers cheerleadersafter the third quarter.