After a thrilling victory in the season opener, it didn't take long for the Spurs to realize they still have work to do in terms of gelling and building cohesiveness. On the second night of a back-to-back, the Spurs fell flat against the Bulls.
The 92-85 final score isn't indicative of how much the Spurs struggled. San Antonio could never get a rhythm and even when they created open looks, the shots clanged off the rim.
The Bulls looked decent but, in truth, they should have won the game easier than they did with how much the Spurs were off. Chicago is a young team with good depth but making it out of the first round is an accomplishment likely out of their grasp.
Overall, it was sobering night for the Spurs and their fans. The transition from talented on paper to talented on the court isn't going to be as seamless as it appeared in the season's first contest. This, as is always the case with Spurs basketball, will be a process.
34:23 minutes, 28 points, 16 rebounds, three blocks, two assists, two steals
13-for-19 from the field, 2-for-4 at the line
Tim Duncan's play was definitely the bright spot for San Antonio. Offensively, Duncan was shooting extremely well from the perimeter. He also used his strength advantage against the smaller Bulls to get a few easy buckets around the rim. Duncan's defense was also decently solid. He protected the rim and was alert when he needed to make a quick rotation. Though he finished with 16 rebounds, he didn't always box out well and was one of the leading reasons why the Bulls grabbed so many offensive rebounds -- especially in the first half. All in all, however, it was good to see that Duncan still is fully capable of carrying the team on any given night.
26:04 minutes, 12 points, six rebounds, four assists
3-for-11 from the field, 1-for-6 on three-pointers, 5-for-5 at the line
Once again, Manu Ginobili played well. The main flaw to his game was his three-point shooting. Not only did he shoot for a poor percentage from deep, a few of his attempts were of the questionable variety. When he wasn't shooting threes, the rest of his game was positive. He looked strong on his drives to the hoop, he made good passes and he competed on the boards. Defensively, he was on and off, with his sub par possessions on defense appearing to be caused by the fact that Ginobili still isn't in game shape.
34:40 minutes, eight points, three rebounds, three assists, three turnovers
4-for-11 from the field
I'm not sure what was wrong with Tony Parker but he was about as listless as you'll ever see him. Perhaps it was the hard fall from the previous night that had Parker playing without much aggression. Whatever the case may be, he wasn't breaking down the defense much at all and that caused the Spurs to struggle for consistent, quality looks. Defensively, he was decent against Rose but it was nothing to write home about. If you had to circle one reason why the Spurs had a difficult time offensively on the night, it would be Parker's lack of attack.
30:21 minutes, nine points, two rebounds
3-for-9 from the field, 0-for-3 on three-pointers, 3-for-6 at the line
This is not exactly the start of the season Richard Jefferson had in mind. While his easing into the offensive hierarchy is likely by design, his inefficiency surely is not. Hopefully he soon loses the hesitation and finds a niche he is comfortable with on offense. As it stands, Jefferson's jumper isn't very pretty and his newness to the situation is painfully obvious. The good news is that his defense has been better than expected so far. He's getting back on transition, picking up his man early and putting in a good effort on each possession.
28:04 minutes, six points, two rebounds
2-for-5 from the field, 1-for-3 on three-pointers
It was a quiet night for Michael Finley, with four of his five shots coming in the fourth quarter when the Spurs were trying to shoot their way back into the game. Without Parker penetrating as much, Finley spent most of his time standing defended out on the perimeter. On the other end, Finley's defense left much to be desired. He wasn't getting scored on a great deal but he was giving up open shots left and right.
19:42 minutes, seven points, five rebounds
3-for-6 from the field, 1-for-4 on three-pointers
Matt Bonner played a predictable game. He helped spread the court offensively and he competed defensively. However, his lack of rebounding ability was highlighted in the first half as the Bulls were skying over him for offensive rebound after offensive rebound. In the second half, his rebounding improved but then his individual defense went south. As is usually the case, if Bonner isn't burying three-pointers, the rest of his game struggles to compensate.
16:23 minutes, one point, three rebounds
0-for-4 from the field, 1-for-2 at the line
Following an impressive debut, Antonio McDyess took a step back in his second outing. He forced a couple of shots offensively and played unsure defense. After looking like such a natural the first time around, his lack of experience playing with his teammates became apparent. The good news is McDyess looks like he's in good shape and he's moving well. Notoriously a slow starter, it doesn't appear as if a lack of conditioning is an issue.
Roger Mason, Jr.
17:39 minutes, two assists
0-for-4 from the field, 0-for-3 on three-pointers
The Spurs desperately needed some sharpshooting from off the bench but Roger Mason, Jr. didn't oblige. Insteadb he added to the problem. Not only was he missing but he also attempted a few bad shots. Mason did make a good pass or two but it was mostly a struggle for him on the offensive end. On defense, he wasn't much better. If Mason is to keep a foothold in the rotation, he'll need to play better.
17:18 minutes, eight points, two rebounds, two steals
2-for-6 from the field, 1-for-2 on three-pointers, 3-for-4 at the line
George Hill was given an opportunity to win a bigger share of minutes but he came up empty. When the Bulls went with a lineup that featured two point guards, Pop responded by putting Hill at shooting guard. But with Hill not doing much offensively and not holding his own defensively, Pop was forced to look elsewhere. After a very good preseason, Hill hasn't yet carried that type of play over to the regular season. Hopefully that occurs shortly.
12:43 minutes, six points, four rebounds
3-for-3 from the field
DeJuan Blair was very good in the first game. In the second game ... not so much. His statistics look decent but he wasn't helping the team's cause. In fact, the Bulls took advantage of Blair's supposed biggest strength -- rebounding. When he was in the game in the first half, the Bulls were getting offensive rebounds on practically every missed shot. Defensively, he was again a liability. Offensively, his natural basketball talents were still on display but the chemistry with his teammates was lacking. To put it succinctly, Blair was a rookie who looked like a rookie.
By starting Finley and Bonner, Pop puts the Spurs at an athleticism, size and speed disadvantage to begin games. The Bulls gladly took advantage. Pop will eventually alter the starting lineup, the question is when. Regarding Blair, I thought Pop should have weathered the storm a bit better and given him more first half minutes. I like that he gave Hill minutes at shooting guard, even if it didn't pan out. Small ball also wasn't a bad idea, especially considering the small lineups the Bulls were utilizing.
Offense was hard to come by on Thursday night. For the game, the Spurs shot 42.3% from the field and hit only 4-of-21 three-pointers and 15-of-23 free throws. Take out Duncan's marksmanship and San Antonio shot just 33.9% from the field. The 13 turnovers compared to only 15 assists illustrates how much the Spurs were off their offensive game.
The Spurs actually were above average in a number of facets defensively. They held the Bulls to 41.7% shooting from the field and Chicago hit only 3-of-16 three-pointers. But there were also a number of negatives -- namely the 15 offensive rebounds pulled down by the Bulls. The Spurs also only forced nine turnovers while allowing the Bulls to pile up 20 assists.
Drive to Five
It's not going to be easy. With the roster overhaul, the Spurs will experience a learning curve. Considering that it was a second night of a back-to-back against a young and athletic team in their home opener, a loss against the Bulls shouldn't have been too surprising. On Saturday night against the Kings, let's hope the Spurs can get back on the winning track.