Solid defense on the S/R and the rotation. Plug the middle. A serviceable inside-out game. That’s what worked last season, and that was the recipe tonight. Chicago couldn’t hit, but the Clippers smothered the perimeter in the closing minutes of the game.
After Deng drills a jumper with 3:33 left, the Bulls don’t hit another FG until Hinrich drives for a layup to cut the Clipper lead to 10 with 0:47 left. The defensive sets that won it:
• [4th, 3:00] From the backcourt, Hinrich lobs the ball quickly into Gordon in the left corner. He launches a 3PA, but Kaman closes quickly and gets a piece of it. Elton grabs the rebound.
• [4th, 2:31] Hinrich brings it up left side and runs a high S/R with PJ Brown. Brown's 17 footer is no good, but Deng comes down with the rebound. As he goes back up, Kaman swats his shot out of bounds. After a Chicago timeout, they inbound the ball and get it back up top to Hinrich. Deng breaks off a down screen for a 19-footer just behind the right elbow. It misses. Kaman comes down with the rebound, though Ewing almost topples him.
• [4th, 1:55] Chicago trails by six as Gordon brings it up. Wallace sets a quick screen for him on the right perimeter, then dives. Gordon gets Kaman off the switch, but Ewing recovers nicely. Gordon tries to take Ewing off the dribble right, but Ewing denies him entry into the paint, and Elton closes. Gordon shoots a fade away no good from the low right block, but Deng grabs the offensive board. After a quick kickout to Hinrich, Deng gets it back on the left block against Corey. Wallace dives from the high post. Deng finds him and Ewing wisely fouls Wallace from Behind. Wallace converts one of two.
• [4th, 1:07] The Bulls bring it up down eight after Ewing hits that monster 3PFG on the other end. Hinrich gets it quickly to Gordon along the left perimeter. Ewing and Brand trap him up top. Gordon tries to sling it into Brown at the high left post, but the ball tips off Brown’s hands. The ball rolls away and Ewing dives to the floor to recover it. Before the Bulls can descend on him, he calls timeout.
• [4th, 1:06] Down 10 now, Chris Duhon inbounds it into the frontcourt to Wallace. Wallace immediately hands it back to Duhon, who dribbles over to the left elbow. Hinrich cuts from the left corner. Duhon sets a hard screen on Mobley – Hinrich’s guy – after he tosses the ball to Hinrich coming off that cut. Hinrich elevates for a 15 foot jumper, but Elton comes up to close. The shot is no good. Ewing grabs the loose rebound, Wallace immediately fouls him, and the Clippers have this one sealed.
With the exception of Thomas, who leaves the game in the third quarter after landing in the camera pool, nobody has a bad game. Kaman’s line won’t look like much, but his three blocks are key, and he plays a heady game, avoiding general boneheadedness all night. I know Hinrich has his fair share of makes, but I think Hart is effective on the perimeter. Mobley, Ross, and Maggette blanket the wings, and Elton does some solid work inside. Wallace picks up some baskets, but it's more important that Elton, Kaman, and Thomas deny Chicago’s penetrators entry into the paint, and they are successful on that count.
Easily the best road win of the season. Tough, tough week ahead, so it’s nice to bank this one.