Blake Griffin dunks over Chicago Bulls guard Marco Marco Belinelli. (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated…)
CHICAGO — On the road in a tight game against a worthy opponent, the Clippers had to have their stars step up during the game's crucial moments.
Blake Griffin and Chris Paul did just that, coming up big in the fourth quarter, carrying the Clippers to a 94-89 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night at the United Center.
Griffin worked the Bulls over in the fourth quarter for eight of his 22 points in helping the Clippers extend their winning streak to seven games, their first such streak since the 1991-92 season.
Paul had to work hard to score five of his 18 points in the fourth in helping the Clippers begin this four-game trip with a victory.
"That's what All-Stars do," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said about Griffin and Paul. "That's what the top players in league do. You've got to win games. You've got to be the man at the end, and Chris made plays and Blake made plays."
Paul and Griffin had not played in the fourth quarter in the last three games — the last time was in a 105-104 victory at Utah on Dec. 3 — because the Clippers' bench had been so overwhelming.
"Yeah, see, that was the problem. That's why I couldn't make a shot in the fourth quarter because I hadn't played in the fourth quarter in so long," Paul joked. "Yeah, I forgot what it was like playing in fourth quarters. But every game is not going to be pretty and that's why it was good to get this win."
Griffin reentered the fourth quarter with 5:59 left and the Clippers leading by five.
He scored on two dunks and tipped in a missed shot that gave the Clippers a nine-point lead.
"For me, it was about getting to the offensive glass," said Griffin, who made his first three-pointer of the season in the second quarter with the 24-second clock winding down. "We know it's [the ball] going to be in Chris' hands. We've got to be there for him — set screens for him, roll, dive."
But the Bulls wouldn't quit, closing to within 89-87 on a three-pointer by Marco Belinelli.
Now was the time the Clippers needed Paul to become the closer, but he had missed four consecutive shots in the fourth.
Still, the Clippers put the ball in Paul's hands, and he delivered.
Paul scored on a six-foot jumper over Kirk Hinrich with 27.1 seconds left for a 91-87 Clippers lead.
"I missed like [four] before that," Paul said. "I finally got to the hole and knocked one down. I was just a lot more aggressive on that one. I got in there and luckily made the shot."
Paul then went three for four from the free-throw line the rest of the game.
"It was an ugly game, but we grinded it out," said Griffin, who also had 10 rebounds. "You've got to have wins like this."
When the Clippers went on their last four-game trip, they won a big game at San Antonio and then lost the next three.
They don't want that to happen this time with three more road games to go.
"It was a great team win for us," Paul said. "But we've seen this movie before, starting out that last road trip beating San Antonio the first game and then losing the next three. So tomorrow [at Charlotte] is a big one for us."