There was a time, not too long ago, when NBA players regarded a game against the Clippers as a bye.
Even Michael Jordan respects the Clippers.
Jordan didn't play golf before Monday night's game against the Clippers because he wanted to prepare for the game.
"They seem to play well against us," Jordan said before the game. "We never really come in and dominate them. They get a filled arena and that gives them a little motivation.
"We can't come in here and fall asleep. We're coming off a loss and that's motivation in itself."
The Clippers outplayed the defending NBA champions for three quarters before the Bulls pulled away for an 88-84 victory, before 16,144, the largest crowd to watch a Clipper game at the Sports Arena.
Clipper Coach Bill Fitch was proud of his team
"I wouldn't trade locker rooms tonight," Fitch said. "One team is headed for more glory, but this team is going to do something for people to talk about somewhere along the way."
Jordan had 40 points as the Bulls, off to the best start in franchise history, improved to 13-1.
"He's everything they say he is, and the best part of it is that he lives up to it every night," Fitch said of Jordan, who made 14 of 26 shots. "He didn't hurt his movie any, I'll tell you that. I'll go see it now."
Jordan had eight points as the Bulls, who trailed, 66-64, going into the fourth quarter, used a 17-4 run in the first six minutes of the final period to win their seventh consecutive game against the Clippers.
The Clippers, who built an 11-point second-quarter lead, scored a season-low 33 points in the second half as they lost their third consecutive game to fall under .500 (6-7) for the first time this season.
"We needed four-wheel drive to get off 70," Fitch said of the Clippers, who were outscored, 24-18, in the final period.
Guard Pooh Richardson said the Clippers collapsed in the final 12 minutes.
"In certain parts of the game we didn't execute. They're the world champs and showed why," Richardson said. "They came through in the fourth quarter."
Bill Wennington started at center for the Bulls in place of Luc Longley, who's expected to be out for eight weeks after separating his left shoulder while bodysurfing between Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach on Sunday.
Losing Longley, who averaged 7.3 points and five rebounds, will hurt the Bulls. They looked weak in the middle before forward Dennis Rodman, who had 14 rebounds and two points, moved to center in the fourth quarter.
Clipper centers Kevin Duckworth and Stanley Roberts combined to outscore Bull centers Wennington, Dickey Simpkins and Jason Caffey, 21-9.
Roberts made four of his first six shots and scored 12 points in 13 minutes in the first half as the Clippers built a 29-18 second-quarter lead and led by 51-45 at the break. Roberts scored only three points in the second half and finished with a team-high 15 points.
The Bulls may be the best team in NBA history, but they didn't look like it against the Clippers.
The Bulls were colder than a winter night on Chicago's Michigan Avenue, missing 12 of their first 13 shots.
Guard Malik Sealy, who sprained his left ankle in Saturday's 98-96 loss at Minnesota, did a good job of checking Jordan, who missed his first five shots before making his final three shots of the first quarter.
"He didn't get any dunks," Sealy said.
Jordan carried the Bulls in the first half, making seven of 13 shots and scoring 22 points.
Jordan said Duckworth and Roberts tired in the final period.
"Duckworth and Stanley were throwing their weight around, but big guys usually get tired and we took advantage of it," Jordan said.
Bull Coach Phil Jackson said his team has turned into the Michael Jordan show. The other Bulls combined for only 48 points. "We haven't really been complete," Jackson said. "We're riding Michael's coattails right now."
Scottie Pippen, who missed 12 of 17 shots, had only five points in the first three quarters before scoring 10 in the final quarter. Toni Kukoc had 13.