LOS ANGELES (AP)—After three frustrating quarters of perimeter shooting, Kirk Hinrich decided to attack the basket—and he made it look easy.
Hinrich scored 10 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter after getting into early foul trouble, Jannero Pargo added 17 off the bench, and the Chicago Bulls beat the Los Angeles Clippers 97-91 on Sunday night.
“I was getting good looks on jump shots, but they weren’t falling,” Hinrich said. “Every one I took felt like it was going in—and it kept going in and out. But I wanted to still be aggressive and make plays for the team. We were able to exploit them on the pick-and-roll, and I was able to get a few layups. So we just kept milking it.”
The Bulls got 46 points from their reserves in the finale of a 2-5 road trip against Western Conference teams. The victory, coupled with Philadelphia’s loss at Washington, put Chicago within two games of the 76ers for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
“It’s been a tough road trip, but we continued to fight and work hard, and fortunately we were able to come out with a win,” Pargo said. “We had a great game plan. We knew that Brand and Kaman were very good inside, so we definitely wanted to double down real hard with our guards and just try to keep the ball out of the paint.”
Elton Brand had 29 points and 15 rebounds for the Clippers after tying a career-high with 44 points in Friday’s win against Memphis. Brand began his NBA career with the Bulls, who made him the first overall pick in the 1999 draft and then traded him to the Clippers exactly two years later for Tyson Chandler.
“It’s definitely disappointing, but I don’t think we took them lightly,” Brand said. “Coach told us they play hard and they execute well. They played a solid game defensively and they had guys all over the place. They outmuscled us and outfought us.”
Chicago led by as many as 12 points on a layup by Luol Deng with 11:28 to play. The Clippers narrowed the gap to 81-77 as rookie James Singleton slammed home a missed shot and added a baseline jumper to cap a 10-2 run with 7:40 remaining. But Hinrich answered with a layup on the Bulls’ next possession, then made three more layups in a 58-second span to give them a 93-85 cushion with 2:59 left.
“He gave them a lot of problems on our high-screen pick-and-roll,” Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. “We put the ball in his hands and let him make decisions. He made big plays, but our defense won the game for us. We did a nice job of swarming in the paint and picking up loose balls.”
Los Angeles got as close as 93-91 with 29 seconds left, as Brand converted a layup after his first shot was blocked by Andres Nocioni. But Hinrich and Nocioni each sank a pair of free throws to clinch it.
The Clippers, who had beaten Chicago in nine of the previous 10 meetings and five straight times at home, shot only 37 percent over the first three quarters. Pargo capped a 13-3 run with a pair of mid-range jumpers to give the Bulls a 76-65 lead with a minute left in the third.
Hinrich and Skiles were assessed technical fouls by referee Ken Mauer for arguing after Hinrich picked up his second personal foul with 6:25 left in the first quarter. Pargo came in for him and scored 11 points before halftime, including a 16-footer that capped a 10-0 run and put Chicago ahead 51-50 with 3.2 seconds left in the second quarter.
Clippers guard Cuttino Mobley, wearing a glove to protect a dislocated knuckle on his shooting hand, was 4-for-12 from the field and scored 11 points while backcourt mate Sam Cassell missed 10 of his first 14 shots and finished with 18.
The Bulls are 11-12 since Ben Gordon, last season’s sixth man of the year, was inserted into the starting lineup at shooting guard in place of the struggling Chris Duhon. Duhon missed the game because of a bruised left thigh. … Chicago came in averaging 41.7 bench points. … Gordon and Clippers G Shaun Livingston were picked 3-4 in the 2004 draft. … Nine of Chicago’s 22 victories have been decided by six points or less.