It was one of those games when ‘more than enough to win’ wasn’t enough to stop a team with even more than enough.
The Bulls dropped their second straight at the hands to the league-best San Antonio, getting blitzed in the second half and falling 101-83.
After a surprising first half, in which they led 52-47, they were outscored 54-31 (29-15 in the fourth) in the second half and the Spurs’ (48-14) reserves outscored the Bulls’ 45-18.
San Antonio shot 54 percent from the field, while holding Chicago to 36 percent.
Marco Belinelli scored a game-high 21 points in the losing effort. Luol Deng contributed 19 points.
“In the first half, the ball moved side to side,” observed coach Tom Thibodeau on his team’s 15 assists on 20 made field goals at that juncture. “In the second half, it didn’t. We settled, took some poor shots and against a team like that, that has the depth that they have, they’re going to make you pay.
“We got to play tougher. We got to play a lot tougher.”
The Spurs started the game on an 8-0 run, before battling back to take a one point lead into the second quarter. They threatened to take over the game mid-way through the second quarter, going on a 15-0 run, highlighted by a pair of three-pointers by Marquis Teague (career-high 11 points 3-4 on three-pointers; the firsts of the season).
The Bulls (34-27) went ahead 46-32 with 4:05 remaining in the first half, but it would be short lived as the Spurs closed the quarter on a 15-6 run to pull to within five going into halftime.
They third quarter would see the game’s pace slowed, which played right into the one of the best home team in the league’s favor as the Bulls played tough to try and hold on and preserve their lead, but were victims to a 17-7 run to end the third and put them down 72-68 headed into the fourth.
As Thibodeau would say afterwards, shot selection and lack of discipline was their biggest undoing in this one as the fourth quarter was all San Antonio.
Tim Duncan led the Spurs with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocked shots (4 in the first 5 minutes of the first quarter. Manu Ginobili also contributed 18 off the bench to go along with nine assists.
“They’re a very good team and they execute,” Deng said. They use everyone’s strengths and move the ball real well. It’s a very tough team to beat if you don’t stay disciplined the whole game. I thought we lost our discipline a little bit. They’re so good at executing and once they started making their run, they never looked back.”
Chicago fell to sixth in the playoff standings and sit behind Atlanta (34-26) and Brooklyn (35-26).
The Bulls were once again without Kirk Hinrich – who missed his second straight and 17th game overall this season with a sore right foot – Richard Hamilton (back spasms/didn’t travel) and Taj Gibson (sprained left MCL). Derrick Rose status is day-to-day, but even if/when he returns, the team will be on an uphill climb to return to some form of consistency in terms of their play.
"Right now we're average," Joakim Noah said. "Pretty average. It's frustrating because the potential is there. But we all have to look at each other in the mirror. Every single one of us, me included. And do more. Just do more."