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11/18/2012 1:02 AM EST
Griffin, Crawford lead Clippers over Bulls 101-80
LA CLIPPERS 101, CHICAGO 80

By JOE RESNICK
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Chicago Bulls had a difficult time
running with the Los Angeles Clippers, who had plenty left in
reserve for the fourth quarter - particularly Blake Griffin.



Griffin scored 12 of his 26 points in the final six minutes and
grabbed 10 rebounds, helping the Clippers rout the Bulls 101-80
on Saturday night for their fifth straight victory.



"It's just about getting the ball in the right spot and doing
what we work on," said Griffin, who was 11 for 18 from the
field. "I missed a lot of them, but my teammates gave me the
confidence to keep shooting. Thankfully, some of them dropped."



Reserve Jamal Crawford scored 17 of his 22 points in the second
quarter for the Clippers, who lead the Pacific Division with a
7-2 mark. It's their best record after nine games since 2005-06,
when they won nine of their first 11, finished 47-35 and came
within one victory of the Western Conference finals.



Five of the Clippers' six wins have come against teams that were
in the playoffs last season, including the Lakers, Spurs and
world champion Miami Heat on Wednesday. Both of their losses
came against clubs which failed to make the postseason - Golden
State and Cleveland.



"We'd be in really good shape right now if it was a 10-game
season," said Chris Paul, who had 10 assists and eight points.
"We couldn't ask for more out of ourselves, but we just have to
keep remembering that it's a long season. We have a big road
trip coming up that starts in San Antonio, which is a tough
place to play"



The Clippers' reserves outscored the starters 35-18 in the first
half and 53-48 for the game. Crawford, who signed with Los
Angeles as a free agent in July after spending last season with
Portland, leads the team with 20.7 points per game and has
scored 20 or more in six of his first nine contests.



Crawford was traded to the Bulls on draft day in June 2000 by
Cleveland in exchange for Chris Mihm and cash. The 13-year
veteran spent his first four NBA seasons in Chicago and went
through two coaching transitions, playing for Tim Floyd, Bill
Cartwright and Scott Skiles - but never making the playoffs
during that stretch. The Clippers are his sixth pro team.



"It was a tough time, especially since a couple of years before
that they had the 1998 team with Michael Jordan and those guys.
So to follow that up was impossible," Crawford said. "My first
year there we didn't have many veterans and were the youngest
team in the league. But those years were important for me. It
was a learning experience and something I'll always cherish
because they gave me my start in the NBA. I'll always have a
love for the Chicago Bulls."



The Bulls, who blew an 18-point lead in their previous game on
Wednesday at Phoenix before beating the Suns 112-106 in
overtime, got 22 points and 12 rebounds from Carlos Boozer on
the second leg of their annual circus road trip. Luol Deng and
Richard Hamilton each had 14 points.



"I think we took a couple of steps back tonight. We got
outscrapped and we got out-competed," Joakim Noah said. "They're
too athletic. And when they get out on the break, that's their
strength. They were denying everything with their switching and
we didn't finish well around the rim."



Noah, who has been urged by Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau to take
more shots, was 0 for 6 from the field and finished with four
points in 30 minutes. It was the 6-foot-11 center's worst
shooting effort in 339 NBA regular-season games, including six
occasions when he was 0 for 4.



"Holding Noah scoreless from the field, we did a great job as a
team," Griffin said. "Our rotations were good, and we made sure
everyone was accounted for. We gave Carlos Boozer too many easy
ones, especially on offensive rebound putbacks and stuff like
that. But as long as Boozer has 22 and we're up by 20, we'll
live with that."



Crawford led Los Angeles to a 53-40 halftime lead with 17
points, including three free throws with 1:31 left in the second
quarter after Kirk Hinrich fouled him on a fadeaway 3-point
attempt near the Clippers' bench.



Los Angeles opened the second half with a 7-0 run and extended
its lead to 71-48 on Griffin's 21-footer with 5:04 left in the
third quarter. The Bulls narrowed the gap to 87-74 with two
baskets off offensive rebounds and a 3-pointer by Marco
Belinelli with 6:14 left in the game.



But Griffin put the Clippers back in control with two free
throws, a fast-break layup and another layup - all in a
58-second span. For good measure, the two-time All-Star
connected three straight times on perimeter jumpers from 18 feet
and out during a 70-second stretch to make it 99-80 with 2:07 to
play.



"This one's hard to let go," Boozer said. "We didn't have enough
juice. They're a very good team and they protect the rim very
well. And they got their hands on a lot of loose balls."



NOTES: The Clippers came in with an average of 40.9 points from
their bench. ... The victory put Vinny Del Negro one game over
.500 in the regular season for the first time since he took over
as Clippers head coach at the start of the 2010-11 campaign. He
is 79-78 with Los Angeles, after guiding Chicago to back-to-back
.500 seasons and two playoff berths. The Bulls are 117-40 since
firing Del Negro and replacing him with Thibodeau.

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