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Doc praises Thibs, then Clippers blast Bulls 112-95

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Updated: February 26, 2014 6:19AM

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, no stranger to rumors this season, addressed the latest one: He’s dating swimsuit model Kate Upton.

Who cares if he’s the one who made it up?

That’s the kind of day Friday was for Thibodeau, and that was hours before a 112-95 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at the United Center.

It started during the shootaround when Clippers coach Doc Rivers — the head coach in Boston when Thibodeau was an assistant — was asked if Thibodeau would be back with the Bulls next season, considering rumors that Thibodeau could be looking to get out of his contract to go elsewhere because of a diminishing relationship with the front office.

‘‘He’s under contract. So, yeah,’’ Rivers answered. ‘‘I don’t know why he wouldn’t be. I think it’d be nuts not to have him here. I think he’s one of the best coaches in this league. So if you have that, that’s an asset. I don’t think any right-minded organization would allow that asset to leave. Because with all this adversity they’ve had with injuries, if you allow that one to leave, things will fall apart. That would be pretty much a guarantee.’’

Told what Rivers said, Thibodeau continued to dismiss talk about his departure and his perceived rocky relationship with general manager Gar Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson.

‘‘OK, I’m not going to comment on rumors that you guys start and you look for me to respond,’’ he said. ‘‘Obviously, I have a lot of respect for anything Doc does say, but to go down that path. . . . Every day there’s something going on. Now, the rumor about my date with Kate Upton started by me, I’m not commenting on that one, either. Let’s move on.’’

Rivers didn’t, however, and again praised Thibodeau in the pregame.

‘‘Every year I come here, I say if he’s not the best coach, he’s one of them,’’ Rivers said.

If Rivers was trying to send a message to Bulls management for his long-time friend, he also sent one on the court. The loss to the Clippers was the Bulls’ second this season and dropped them to 4-9 against the Western Conference. They can thank a defensive meltdown in the first quarter in which they allowed the Clippers (30-15) to score a season-high 41 points, mainly behind 7-for-8 three-point shooting.

‘‘It’s pretty much the story of the game,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘We gave up the 41 points, the threes, 15-point lead, and we’re chasing our tails the rest of the game.’’

The Bulls (21-21) cut the lead to single digits late in the third quarter, but Darren Collison ran off seven points to squash the comeback.

Blake Griffin’s 26 points and 13 rebounds led the Clippers. The Bulls got 22 points from Carlos Boozer.

‘‘I think we were passive,’’ Bulls guard Jimmy Butler said. ‘‘I don’t like the word ‘soft,’ but I think we were a little bit of that, too. We didn’t make it too tough on them at all.’’


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