Clippers 110, Bulls 98

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LOS ANGELES (AP)—The Los Angeles Clippers appear to be getting their swagger back. They couldn’t have picked a better time.

Elton Brand had 26 points and eight rebounds, Shaun Livingston scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, and the Clippers pulled away in the final 3 1/2 minutes to beat the Chicago Bulls 110-98 on Wednesday night, moving them above .500 for the first time in almost two months.

The win was the seventh in eight games for the Clippers (23-22), who hadn’t had a winning record since a victory over Memphis on Dec. 9 made them 10-9. They lost their next six games.

“This is our run for the playoffs,” Brand said. “Finishing like that is the key. They made their run, we showed some resilience. We’re getting back to last year. Now, we’re winning, we feel like we can win every game.”

The Clippers won their first playoff series in 30 years last spring, and came within one victory of reaching the Western Conference finals. But until recently, they’ve been a major disappointment this season.

Sam Cassell had 18 points, six rebounds and six assists, while Tim Thomas had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Clippers, who outscored the Bulls 16-4 to finish the game.

“The first half of the season, we didn’t play up to our standards,” Cassell said. “There are two parts to the season. We have an opportunity.

“This game is 80 percent confidence. It’s crucial for us right now—we’ve got to put forth more effort, better energy, win some games.”

The Clippers begin a seven-game road trip Friday night in Boston. They’re 17-8 at home, but just 6-14 on the road.

“What is it, a five-hour flight to Boston? If we would have lost, it would have felt like 10,” said Corey Maggette, who scored 15 points.

Coach Mike Dunleavy said he talked to Livingston about being more aggressive. The 21-year-old guard took heed, especially in the fourth quarter.

“We’re having some spurts of real excellence,” Dunleavy said. “That’s the way we want to play—that’s a great getaway game before this road trip. Defensively, I thought we were excellent in the fourth quarter.”

Kirk Hinrich had 25 points and 10 assists, and Ben Gordon and Luol Deng added 17 points apiece for the Bulls (26-20), who had a three-game winning streak snapped. Gordon had scored 30 or more points in three of Chicago’s previous four games.

The Bulls played without starting center Ben Wallace, who bruised a tendon in his left knee last weekend. Chicago coach Scott Skiles said before the game he hopes Wallace will return to action Friday night at Seattle or Saturday night at Portland.

“He’s the centerpiece for us,” Hinrich said. “He does so much for us every night. We still could have won. On the road, we made too many mistakes to win.”

Cassell made two free throws with 6:56 remaining to give the Clippers a 92-84 lead, but Deng and Hinrich each scored four points during a 10-2 run by the Bulls that tied the game at 94 with 3:51 left. That’s when the Clippers took command.

Brand made two free throws 17 seconds later, and a basket by Livingston basket gave the Clippers a four-point lead.

Livingston then stole the ball, and Hinrich committed a flagrant foul as the Clippers guard streaked toward the basket. Livingston made two foul shots with 2:05 to play, and Brand’s jumper five seconds later put Los Angeles on top 102-94.

The only Chicago points after that came on two baskets by Hinrich, who scored 14 of his team’s 27 points in the final period.

Hinrich said he wasn’t surprised he was called for a flagrant foul, and he approached Livingston immediately afterward to check on his status.

“I probably should have grabbed him,” Hinrich said. “I can’t take it back.”

After trailing 61-45 early in the third quarter, the Bulls outscored Los Angeles 13-4 to move within seven points. The Clippers led 79-71 entering the fourth period.

Notes

The game was the opener of the Bulls’ second seven-game road trip of the season. They were 1-6 on the first trip. … The Bulls have a 20-6 record in an NBA-high 26 home games, but they’re 6-14 on the road. Only Dallas has more wins at home (21), but every Eastern Conference team has won more road games. … Doug Christie, who signed a 10-day contract with the Clippers before the game, went scoreless in three minutes. … The Clippers have won 11 of the last 13 games between the teams, including six of the last seven in Los Angeles. … Chicago’s Malik Allen scored 12 points in his first start of the season.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Chicago
K. Hinrich K. Hinrich
11-18,  25 Pts
4 Rebs, 10 Assists
 LA Clippers
E. Brand E. Brand
9-17,  26 Pts
9 Rebs, 3 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists

Scoreboard

Wednesday, Jan 31