The 104-96 scoreline doesn’t tell the story of the San Antonio Spurs, led by a scorching Tony Parker, humiliating the Chicago Bulls on their home court, allowing their bench to let go of a huge lead and still not worry for a single second about dropping the win.
The Spurs led 38-14 after the first quarter and 61-33 at half time. They shot 61% through the first half an 58% through the first three quarters before clearing the bench gave the Bulls a chance to make a point less comeback run, with D.J. Augustin scoring 24 points and Jimmy Butler adding 23.
It didn’t erase the fact that the Bulls didn’t show until it was too late. Tom Thibodeau took the blame, his players diverted the attention to them. Whatever it was, someone slept on the job of remaining alert after their big win over the Miami Heat. Their defense didn’t respond to the quickness and precision of the Spurs, as Tony Parker sliced through the lines with ease time after time, finishing with 20 points and 9 assists in only 25 minutes. Manu Ginobili was just as difficult to stop, scoring 22 pointson 9-of-11 from the field as the Spurs shot 57.1% from beyond the arc against a team that usually makes oh so very difficult to score against them.
The Spurs remain on top of the league with the best record in the NBA, playing better than anyone at the moment, as we’ve mentioned in their previous win as well. Kawhi Leonard scored 16 points and added 9 rebounds, hardly needing anything from their interior players like Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter, seemingly used more as decoys or screen setters than actually doing anything with the ball. Duncan had only 4 points on a rough 2-of-9 shooting night, Splitter didn’t score and Boris Diaw added 8 points from the bench.
The Bulls can’t afford slow starts. They don’t have the kind of offense that can overcome 15-20 point deficits in no time. Not enough 3-point shooters and not enough explosive players. This is a methodical, grinding team, bulit around the do-it-all abilities of Joakim Noah. He once again wasn’t too far from finishing with a triple doube, scoring 13 points, adding 8 rebounds and 7 assists. But the impressive per 48 minutes numbers he usually brings to the team (the Bulls outscoring opponents by 10.6 points in his time on the floor), the Bulls were outscored by 13 with him on it. When he can’t bring an impact defensively while Parker was making Hinrich miserable, the Bulls simply looked very bad.
It was one of those days. Everything works out for one team, nothing for the other. Taj Gibson missed an easy dunk in the first half as the Spurs were leading by 31 points (55-24) at the time. Things got a little bit better later on, but not for Gibson who had only one point in the game on 0-of-5 from the field. The Bulls just need to erase and carry on to the rest of their home stand which includes the Rockets, Kings and Thunder, meaning it isn’t going to get much easier.
The Spurs? They’re playing better than anyone, but they need to hope they still haven’t peaked yet, with bigger things waiting for them after getting through the next 20 games.