The Bulls got a good look at the full-strength Spurs on Tuesday
night at the United Center. San Antonio sprinted to a 38-14 lead
after one quarter and cruised to a 104-96 victory.
Since that home loss to Chicago, San Antonio (47-16) went 14-3 and
continues to own the league's best record.
"We have turned the corner," Spurs forward Tim Duncan said. "We have
the bodies back. This was a good win and we have another big game
tomorrow (at home vs. Portland). We have been scoring points all
year, but we have to execute our defensive plan to win
Guard Tony Parker scored 16 of his 20 points in the first quarter
and finished with nine assists. Ginobili led the Spurs with 22
points and Leonard added 16. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was able to
give his starters a long rest in the second half.
The final score was deceptive because the Bulls made a late and
futile charge after entering the fourth quarter trailing by 24.
"Best first half we have played in a long time," Ginobili said. "We
got up early and that makes it a lot easier."
Guard D.J. Augustin led Chicago with 24 points, guard Jimmy Butler
added 23 points and center Joakim Noah contributed 13 points, eight
rebounds and seven assists.
Parker dominated the game from the opening tip. He scored on drives,
jumpers and a spinning lay-in as the Spurs opened a 23-6 lead. While
San Antonio hit 10 of its first 13 shots from the field, Parker and
Leonard combined to score 19 of the first 21 points.
"He was aggressive for himself and his teammates," Popovich said of
Parker. "He hit a lot of shots early and we fed off him."
When Ginobili finished the first quarter with a reverse lay-in, the
Spurs led 38-14. It equaled the largest first-quarter deficit in
Bulls franchise history.
San Antonio (47-16) shot 71.4 percent from the field in the first
quarter (15 for 21) compared with 26.3 percent by Chicago (5 for
"Readiness to play, that's the biggest thing," Chicago coach Tom
Thibodeau said. "I told them, that's completely on me. It's my job
to have them ready. We had no edge to us. That's a
championship-caliber team that's playing on all cylinders and
they're going after it. So if you don't match that intensity to
start, you are going to get in a big hole."
The lineup changed, but the second quarter brought more of the same.
Former Bulls guard Marco Belinelli drained two 3-pointers in the
opening 90 seconds, guard Patty Mills hit all three of his shots and
backup center Aron Baynes tossed in a couple of baskets.
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The Spurs' lead peaked at 32 points on four occasions, including
57-25 with 3:03 left in the first half on a Belinelli floater. San
Antonio led 97-75 midway through the fourth quarter before Chicago
finished with a 21-7 run, but eight points was as close as it got.
"They were whupping our tail from the very beginning," Butler said.
"We just came out stagnant. A few turnovers, we weren't making
shots. That led us to not playing the type of defense we normally
play. I felt like that was the biggest key to the game."
The Bulls (35-29) are halfway through a challenging six-game
homestand that features opponents with four of the five best records
in the league. So far, Chicago lost to Memphis, beat Miami and lost
to the Spurs. Houston, Sacramento and Oklahoma City are next on the
NOTES: Chicago G Derrick Rose is doing more after practices, such as
shooting jump shots and running side to side. Coach Tom Thibodeau's
latest update was not any more optimistic that Rose could return
from knee surgery this season. "He's doing a little bit more, a
little bit more running now," Thibodeau said. "He's still nowhere
near ready to practice, but he's doing well. His spirit's strong.
His body feels good." ... San Antonio G Marco Belinelli, who played
well for the Bulls last season, got a nice ovation from fans at the
United Center and knocked down his first two 3-point attempts after
checking in. Asked before the game how much Belinelli has helped,
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had a quip ready. "He's a great source
for Italian restaurants around the league," Popovich said. "We argue
consistently about what's good and what's not good." ... Asked if
this has been his best coaching job, with all the injuries the Spurs
have endured, Popovich joked, "Haven't they all been brilliant? My
2-22 season at Pomona was my best."
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