Rose scored 32 points on Wednesday night and the Chicago Bulls beat the Clippers 106-88 for their sixth straight victory, snapping Los Angeles’ nine-game home winning streak. He scored 34 points against them on Dec. 18 at Chicago, but missed a tying free throw with 0.8 seconds on the clock as the Bulls lost 100-99.
“They beat us the last time and I wanted some revenge,” said Rose, who lives in Los Angeles during the off-season. “It was because of me that we lost that game, and that really hurt me. If anything, it made me stronger as a player. So I just wanted to come out here and play aggressive and try to take control of the game early.”
Rose made three 3-pointers in the first 5 minutes with Randy Foye(notes) guarding him. Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro then put rookie reserve Eric Bledsoe(notes) on the third-year veteran, but Rose finished the quarter with 13 points to match Blake Griffin’s(notes) total. Both players were the No. 1 overall pick in their respective drafts, Rose in 2008 and Griffin in 2009.
Rose didn’t make another field goal until his reverse layup with 10:12 left in the third helped increase Chicago’s six-point halftime lead to 61-49. The Bulls built a 89-71 lead on a layup by Deng that capped a 10-0 run with 9:41 remaining, and the Clippers got no closer than 13 points after that.
“They didn’t let us get as much penetration in the second half,” Griffin said. “They tightened the floor on us and it forced us to take bad shots.”
Griffin led Los Angeles with 32 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists in 41 minutes for his 40th double-double of the season and 34th in 35 games. The 21-year-old rookie also played an entire game without a turnover for the second time this season, but missed nine of 13 free throws.
“We know Griffin’s a great low-post scorer, so we were just making sure that we got him off the block, tried to front him and make every shot tough for him,” Rose said. “He’s always aggressive, so we made sure we always had people around him.”
Rose, the only player among the league’s top 10 in scoring and assists, shot 11 for 18 and had 11 assists. He played through two stomach ulcers over the past week to lead the Central Division leaders to victories over Orlando and Indiana.
“He’s an unbelievable player,” Griffin said. “He’s extremely talented. He does a great job distributing the ball, but he can also score. So it’s tough to defend him.”
The Bulls never trailed as they began a five-game road trip with their 23rd victory in 29 games—a stretch that began one game after Carlos Boozer(notes) returned to the lineup from a broken right hand. Luol Deng(notes) scored 26 points and Boozer added 16 points and 10 rebounds.
The Bulls’ 34-14 start is their best since 1997-98, when they had the same record after 48 games en route to their sixth NBA title in an eight-year span. They are tied with Miami for the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, three games behind Boston, and are 18-6 since Joakim Noah(notes) was sidelined by injuries to his right hand and thumb.
“Our confidence is very high,” Rose sdaid. “We’re still under the radar, but that’s fine with us. We’re just going to try to keep getting wins. We’re jelling. I mean, we’re still missing a big piece in Joakim, but we’re still finding ways to win.”
The Clippers, who have been playing without leading scorer Eric Gordon(notes) for the past 11/2 weeks because of a sprained right wrist, shot 46.8 percent against a defense that had held opponents to a league-low 42.3 percent coming into the game.
The Clippers play their next nine games away from Staples Center. The first four opponents on the trip—Atlanta, Miami, Orlando and New York—are a combined 64-27 at home. They’ll also play Milwaukee (23-4) and New Orleans (20-5).
The next time Griffin takes the court at Staples, it will be during All-Star weekend, when he and Bledsoe will compete for a team of rookies against a squad comprised of second-year players. Griffin also will match talents with Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings(notes), Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka(notes) and Washington’s JaValle McGee in the Slam-Dunk contest. The last Clipper to compete in that event was Corey Maggette(notes) in 2001, and the last one to win it was Brent Barry(notes) in 1996.
Notes: Griffin, named the top rookie in the Western Conference for the third straight month on Monday, is trying to join Chris Paul(notes) (2005-06) as the only player to sweep the award in his conference. … If Griffin is added to the All-Star roster, expect the NBA to excuse him from the Rookie Challenge. That’s what they did last year with Rose, who was scratched from the Skills Challenge because of a bruised right hip but did play in the main event. … The Bulls have held opponents under 100 points in 13 straight games and 19 of 20. They are 31-6 this season when giving up fewer than 100, and 0-8 with allowing 100 or more in a regulation game. … Boozer is averaging 18.0 points and 11.0 rebounds in his last five games after missing the previous three because of a sprained left ankle.