CHICAGO — Chris Paul liked the way the Los Angeles Clippers grinded out an ugly win when they were challenged.
Blake Griffin had 22 points and 10 rebounds to help Los Angeles beat the Chicago Bulls 94-89 on Tuesday night for its seventh straight victory, the team’s longest winning streak in two decades.
Marco Belinelli hit a 3-pointer with less than a minute left to cut Chicago’s deficit to 89-87, but Paul answered with a floater in the lane, then iced it with three free throws down the stretch as Los Angeles snapped the Bulls’ season-high three-game winning streak.
Paul finished with 18 points and four assists, below the 20 and 10 he averaged in his first dozen games against Chicago but enough for the Clippers to sweep the season series for the first time since 2009-10.
“I kind of forgot what it was like to play in the fourth quarter,” said Paul, who hadn’t seen late action since Dec. 3 at Utah. “But at the end, we knew we were on the road and we’d have to withstand a run we knew they would make. Our defense kept us in the game.”
Chicago shot 50 percent from beyond the arc, but only 1 of 6 in the fourth quarter.
“We want our identity to be a defensive identity,” Paul said. “We’re still trying to build that.”
The Clippers (15-6) are on their longest winning streak since an eight-game run during the 1991-92 season. They have won 10 of 12 at the United Center.
Carlos Boozer scored 24 points and pulled down 13 rebounds for the Bulls, who had won five of six overall.
It was Boozer’s 10th double-double in 13 games, but he missed a pair of free throws and was called for an offensive foul during a crucial sequence 3 minutes into the fourth quarter as Chicago failed to cut into the Clippers’ lead.
The Bulls (11-9) had held opponents below 90 points in seven of their last nine games, though they did keep the Clippers under 100 for the first time during their seven-game run.
Griffin was a force inside throughout, quieting the home crowd with his thunderous dunks. He also knocked down his first 3-pointer of the season in the second quarter after missing five previous attempts.
“Games on the road like this, after we had a little bit of success, six games, coming on the road, you don’t want to have a letdown,” Griffin said. “Chicago’s a tough team. These are the kinds of wins you need.”
The Western Conference Player of the Week then followed with a pair of rim-shaking dunks in transition as part of a 15-5 Clippers run to end the first half. They went into halftime with a seven-point lead, matching their biggest advantage of the game to that point.
“The end of the second quarter changed the game,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We started dancing with the ball. When you do that it leads to turnovers, live ball, and transition baskets for them. We shot ourselves in the foot there.
“You can’t do that against good teams.”
Griffin averaged 30.3 points and 12.0 rebounds in his first four career games against Chicago. The only team he has better numbers against is the New York Knicks (31.1 ppg).
Griffin had 26 points and 10 rebounds in his team’s 101-80 win over Chicago on Nov. 17 in Los Angeles.
Joakim Noah finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds. It marked the first time the Bulls have lost when both Noah and Boozer have double-doubles (8-1).
Luol Deng was held to just eight points, his lowest output since a seven-point performance in Chicago’s season opener.
He and Noah committed four turnovers apiece. Chicago turned the ball over 16 times.
“We can’t put that team in transition,” Noah said. “The turnovers hurt us.”
Defense ruled early as both teams struggled out of the chute. Los Angeles missed its first six field-goal attempts before Caron Butler finally knocked down a jumper more than 3 minutes in. Chicago fared little better, starting 1 of 10 from the floor.
The Bulls had to go to the bench after two fouls were called on Kirk Hinrich in the first quarter, but Nate Robinson and Taj Gibson provided a spark in relief.
Robinson knocked down a pair of 3s to help Chicago keep pace, and Gibson’s jumper midway through the second quarter gave the Bulls their first lead since the opening minutes.
Gibson scored eight of his 10 points in the second quarter.
Jamal Crawford, the NBA’s leading bench scorer, finished with 10 points for Los Angeles. They all came in the second after being tripped by Robinson, who was called for a flagrant foul.
CAVALIERS 100, LAKERS 94
CLEVELAND— Kyrie Irving scored 28 points in his return after missing 11 games with a broken finger, helping Cleveland drop the Lakers to a new low in a tumultuous season.
Irving added 11 assists in 39 minutes as the Cavs ended a five-game losing streak.
Kobe Bryant scored 42 points and Dwight Howard had 19 points and 20 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Lakers from losing for the eighth time in 11 games and to a Cleveland team that came in with just four wins.
C.J. Miles scored 28 in his first start this season for the Cavs.
Los Angeles was without Pau Gasol, who missed his fifth straight game with knee tendinitis.
NUGGETS 101, PISTONS 94
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Ty Lawson had 26 points, seven assists and five rebounds, and Corey Brewer added 15 points to Denver over Detroit.
Andre Iguodala had 12 points and eight rebounds for the Nuggets, who rallied from a slow start in which they trailed by as many as 17 in the first quarter. JaVale McGee also scored 12 for Denver.
Brandon Knight had 20 points and five assists for the Pistons. Jason Maxiell added 18 points, six blocks and six rebounds, and Rodney Stuckey scored 17.
Danilo Gallinari hit a 3-pointer with 1:48 left to give the Nuggets a 96-89 lead before Lawson’s driving layup with 1:15 remaining pushed it to 98-89.
WIZARDS 77, HORNETS 70
NEW ORLEANS — Jordan Crawford scored 26 points to help Washington spoil the return of overall No. 1 pick Anthony Davis with a win over New Orleans.
Bradley Beal added 15 points for the Wizards, who trailed by as many as 13 and never led until the fourth quarter. Washington won for the first time on the road after losing its first eight.
Ryan Anderson led New Orleans with 17 points. Davis, who missed 11 games with a stress reaction in his left ankle, had 13 points and seven rebounds.
The game befitted the team with the worst record in the Eastern Conference (Washington) and the team with the worst in the West (New Orleans) as both teams shot under 33 percent for the game.