CHICAGO (AP)—Coach Mike Dunleavy stared across the floor and didn’t even recognize his team. That’s how poorly the Clippers played early on Saturday night.
They were trailing the lowly Chicago Bulls by 24 points and were on the verge of being blown out.
“We were down about 25 in the first half and I was thinking, `Who are we and what are we doing and who were those guys that I knew?”’ Dunleavy said after Los Angeles’ 97-96 victory.
“Then, all of sudden, we tightened up defensively and got back to doing what we are going,” he said. “We did a really great job of staying tough and not giving up, coming back and scratching and clawing.”
With that hustling defense and some timely shooting by Marko Jaric, the Clippers climbed all the way back. They rallied for their greatest comeback victory since the franchise moved from Buffalo to San Diego for the 1978-79 season.
Jaric scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half. Corey Maggette led Los Angeles with 23 points and Chris Wilcox added 14, making two thunderous dunks in the final quarter when the Clippers finished off the victory.
What got Los Angeles out of the 49-25 second-quarter hole?
“Screaming. Me screaming. Coach going, `Man you just going to let it be like this?”’ Maggette said. “This one is about teamwork and unity.”
The Bulls, meanwhile, fell to 0-4. And things could get worse in a hurry— Chicago now faces a seven-game road trip.
“It’s frustrating when you have a 24-point lead diminishing and you wonder when it’s going to stop,” Curry said. “We just didn’t get stops when we needed to.”
Curry was in the middle of trade turmoil this week, when his agent said he wanted to leave the Bulls before he responded by saying he didn’t.
“I’m not thinking about it anymore. I don’t live in the past,” Curry said. “I’m just happy I’m still here and hopefully I’ll continue to be here.”
Whatever his status, Curry surpassed his miserable 3-point performance against the Suns last Tuesday in the first quarter Saturday night. He had a pair of three-point plays and scored 10 as the Bulls took a 34-21 lead.
The Clippers were playing their third road game in four nights. They arrived at 2:30 a.m. from New York, where they’d lost to the Knicks on Friday night, but hustled on defense and went on a big run of their own to get back in the game.
Maggette had a three-point play with 14 seconds left, and former Bulls player Rick Brunson’s jumper at the buzzer capped a 23-5 flurry and got Los Angeles within six points at the half.
Jaric had 13 points in the third quarter, and his jumper put the Clippers ahead 76-73 before Luol Deng’s third straight jumper, a 3-pointer, tied it entering the fourth.
“In the first quarter they shot a high percentage and we couldn’t get our fastbreak,” Jaric said. “They started missing shots, we started playing better defense. We had a lot of deflections and steals and we opened up the court and we came back.”
The Bulls then missed their first six shots of the final period, and Jaric’s 3-pointer and six points by Wilcox gave the Clippers a 10-point lead.
Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich lofted a long 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it a one-point game.
Curry was hit on the right side of the head by Chandler’s arm when he was trying to rip it away from Wilcox after they got tangled up in the fourth quarter. Wilcox and Chandler were given technical fouls. … Clippers rookie Shaun Livingston, the Peoria Central star who jumped straight to the NBA, said he bought between 50 and 60 tickets to the game. … The Bulls now go on a six-game West Coast road swing. They are 0-32 during the early-season road trip over the last five years. After another road game in Cleveland they come home to play the Lakers and Heat, making an 0-13 start a possibility.