Stats can often be misleading and the Bulls 103-89 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night helps give credence to that notion.
The league-best Spurs (41-12) were without Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Stephen Jackson and Tony Parker.
The Bulls held San Antonio to just two offensive rebounds (including zero through three quarters) and finished with a 49-26 edge in boards (17 offensive for a 20-4 edge in second chance points), but found themselves down by as many as 15 as the Spurs capitalized on their opponents 19 turnovers, turning them into 29 points.
The margin was the highest for the Bulls during a loss since an overtime loss in Orlando in Mar. of 2000, where they outrebounded the Magic by 25.
“When you outrebound someone like we did and to be in the position that we were in, we beat ourselves,” a frustrated Bulls’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “19 turnovers, 29 points; you’re not going to be successful, especially against a team like that. They’re terrific. The way they share the ball, the ball moves, the way they can shoot and they’re going to make you pay for mistakes. If you give them points where they’re just layups, live-ball turnovers, you’re not going to be successful.”
Nate Robinson led the Bulls with a team-high 20 points to go along with seven assists. Richard Hamilton chipped in with 16 and Carlos Boozer 14.
After leading 24-20 after the first period, the Bulls allowed the Spurs to shoot 65 percent in the second as they’re offense became anemic (25 percent 4-of-16 shooting) as they were outscored 31-18.
The Spurs continued their hot shooting in the second half, going five-of-six from deep in the third period. Robinson provided some much needed momentum, going for 11 of his total and helping pull Chicago to within 76-71 entering the fourth quarter.
Two quick field goals would pull the Bulls to within one with 9:51 remaining and it would be as close as they would get as San Antonio would go on a 13-3 run to push their advantage back to double digits and Chicago couldn’t get shots to fall or stops on the other end.
“You have to give credit where credit is due. They played very well,” said Joakim Noah, who finished with 15 rebounds and five assists in 38 minutes. “They stick to their game plan, but we’re not playing good basketball right now. We’re on top of each other offensively, we’re not trusting each other defensively and we have to play better. We know that we’re more than capable of playing better.”
Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with a career-high 26 points.
The Bulls have gave up over 100 points in three of the last four games, which have all been losses and are giving up 107.8 during the stretch.
San Antonio turned the ball over just eight times, which tied an opponent season-low.
“We have to get our intensity back, we have to get our discipline back,” Thibodeau said. “Right now, people are looking for bailouts. You can’t have that. We’re taking some shortcuts and we’re paying for it, both offensively and defensively.
“Defensively, there are always two things you ask yourself: One, are we doing it hard enough and two, are we executing the scheme correctly?” he continued. “The bailout is, when someone scores, ‘Oh, we’ve got to change.’ No, you’ve got to ask your ask yourself if you’re doing it hard enough first and are you doing your part correctly. It’s hard to judge when you don’t have those two things under control. Your intensity, you have control over. Doing your job in the scheme, you have control over and then if they’re scoring, and you’re doing those two things, then maybe you think about changing. But right now, we’re not getting it done.”