Kaman helps Clips end 4-game skid in return; Bulls' 5-game win streak snapped
CHICAGO -- Without center Chris Kaman, the Clippers couldn't get a lead -- let alone a victory. Once he returned from an ankle injury, Los Angeles dominated a Chicago team coming off its most impressive road stretch since the Michael Jordan dynasty days.
"Kaman's our anchor. It's a big difference when he plays," coach Mike Dunleavy said Tuesday night after Kaman's 21 points and 11 rebounds helped the Clippers snap a four-game losing streak with a 90-82 victory over the Bulls.
"He defends, rebounds and scores inside and out. When you go through stretches where you need a bucket, he's the place you can go. They have to pay attention to him ... and it creates opportunities [for teammates]."
Eric Gordon took advantage, scoring 24 points as the Clippers won for just the second time in their last 14 road games.
Kaman, one of only three NBA players averaging 20 points and nine rebounds, missed the previous two games with a sprained ankle -- and Los Angeles never held a lead in either lopsided defeat.
"It was disappointing having to sit. I want to be out there," he said.
Back home after finishing a long road trip with five victories over good Western Conference teams, the Bulls shot 38 percent and committed 20 turnovers in losing to the last club to beat them -- the struggling Clippers.
"We were just making bad plays, making bad decisions," said Derrick Rose, who averaged 24.6 points during the winning streak but had 16 points on 7-for-20 shooting Tuesday. "It was tough the whole night."
Chicago captain Kirk Hinrich said the Bulls "relaxed a little bit."
"We were doing what it takes to win on the road," he said. "Tonight we lacked intensity and got beat for it."
Luol Deng led the Bulls with 18 points but had only two after the first quarter. Chicago, which fell back to .500 at 23-23, has lost eight of its last 11 to the Clippers at the United Center.
"We're not a team that can take anyone lightly," Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said. "When your top players don't play well, it's hard to beat good teams. It's hard to beat any team, for that matter."
The Clippers had been 1-5 since beating the Bulls on Jan. 20 -- including losses to woeful New Jersey and Minnesota.
They led only 64-58 late in the third quarter before Gordon's five points capped a 14-2 run. The Bulls pulled to 80-70 midway through the fourth before Gordon hit a 3-pointer and Kaman made a 12-footer. And after Chicago closed to 85-74, Rasual Butler made a 3-pointer and Baron Davis hit a 20-footer for a 90-74 lead.
The Clippers are 10-2 with the lineup of Kaman, Gordon, Davis, Butler and Marcus Camby.
They had been outscored by a combined 80-40 in the first quarters of lopsided losses to Minnesota and Cleveland but led 31-26 after one period Tuesday, with Kaman scoring eight points.
"We made a lot of shots that came from our good defense and easy outlets," Gordon said. "We definitely needed this."
With Rose selected as an All-Star reserve, the NBA excused him from the Rookie Challenge. He still will defend his skills challenge title during All-Star Weekend. Is the dunk contest in his future? "No. I can jump high, but I'm not that creative," he said. ... When Kaman hit a 15-foot jumper from the baseline 17 seconds into the game to make it 2-0, the Clippers had their first lead in 140 minutes, 50 seconds. Their previous lead had been in the opening minutes of a Jan. 27 loss at New Jersey. ... G Devin Brown, acquired last week from New Orleans, scored five points in his Bulls debut. ... Butler swished a long 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer.
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