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updated: 12/12/2012 1:23 AM

Clippers' dunk-fest does in cold Bulls

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  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin grabs a rebound over Bulls center Joakim Noah Tuesday during the first half at the United Center.

      Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin grabs a rebound over Bulls center Joakim Noah Tuesday during the first half at the United Center.
    Associated Press

 
 

This game was all about dancing and dunking, at least based on Tom Thibodeau's postgame analysis.

The visiting Los Angeles Clippers did plenty of dunking, mostly by all-star forward Blake Griffin, who owned the air space around the rim and scored 22 points.

The Bulls led at times and were as close as 2 points in the final minute but lost to the Clippers 94-89 at the United Center, snapping a three-game winning streak.

The Clippers outscored the Bulls in the paint 50-38 and held a decisive edge in points off turnovers 22-10. Thibodeau had a single explanation for what went wrong.

"We started dancing with the ball," Thibodeau said. "When you do that, it just leads to turnovers, live-ball transition buckets. So we shot ourselves in the foot there."

He obviously means there was a lack of ball movement by the Bulls offensively. But it might be tougher for novice basketball fans to identify "dancing with the ball" when they see it.

"You've seen the And1 Mix Tape haven't you?" Nate Robinson asked. "That's what he doesn't want. We have to go back to the drawing board and figure it out."

The Bulls weren't doing any street-ball tricks in this game, but the point seems clear: Move the ball and good things will happen.

"It means exactly what he said," Kirk Hinrich said. "There were times when we got away from what was being effective for us. When we were able to move the ball side to side, make quick decisions and the ball's hopping, we usually got something good. When we didn't, we didn't."

The Bulls (11-9) had just 1 turnover in the first quarter, then 8 in the second. The Clippers finished with a 12-2 run to take a 47-40 advantage at halftime.

The lead reached 9 before the Bulls climbed back into it. A 3-point play by Carlos Boozer, followed by a 3-point basket from Hinrich lifted the home team to a 60-57 lead with 5:52 remaining in the third quarter.

The Bulls let it get away again late in the third. A clear path foul on Joakim Noah led to a 4-point possession by Matt Barnes, who hit a free throw, then a 3-pointer. In the first half, Robinson picked up a flagrant foul by tripping Jamal Crawford to prevent a fastbreak.

"It's disappointing, because it ends up being a two-possession game," Thibodeau said. "The first thing you have to do if you want to be a good team is eliminate the ways in which you beat yourself. We have to take care of that."

The Bulls started the night shooting 33.2 percent from 3-point range, bad enough to rank 25th in the league. They defied form in this game, though, hitting 8 of their first 10 attempts from long range.

Boozer led the Bulls with 24 points and 13 assists. Marco Belinelli added 18 points, but hit just 6 of 22 shots from the field,

After trailing by 9 points with 2:19 remaining, the Bulls closed within 89-87 with 48.3 seconds left on a 3-pointer by Belinelli. The Clippers answered with a Chris Paul pullup in the lane to go back up by 4. Noah scored on a driving reverse before Paul hit 2 free throws with 21.0 seconds on the clock to make it 93-89.

again, the Bulls relied heavily on their starters, with all but Hinrich playing at least 40 minutes. They flew to Philadelphia after the game and must face the Sixers on Wednesday.

"It's the NBA season. It's a grind," Hinrich said. "You have to be mentally and physically tough. Right now I think for the most part we've been doing a good job of stepping to the plate and giving a winning effort. Tonight, we just didn't play well enough."

mmcgraw@dailyherald.com

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