The San Antonio Spurs successfully snapped their four-game losing streak with a 120-104 victory over the Chicago Bulls. The Spurs are now 1-3 to begin their nine-game homestand, while the Bulls dropped to 19-25 with the loss.
This was a weird one for the good guys. For the first 32 minutes, the Spurs played a majestic brand of basketball and everything was clicking. After taking a 36-point lead in the third quarter, the Spurs went from looking like the Harlem Globetrotters to reverting to the form that was prevalent during their four-game skid. While the Bulls were able to trim their deficit to nine points, their hellacious run proved to be too little too late.
One one hand, it’s troubling that the Spurs collapsed so catastrophically. On the other hand, a team taking their foot off the gas once they have a big lead happens in the NBA. The bottom line is San Antonio had long stretches of very cohesive play, which had been missing in action as of late. Let’s hope we see more of that going forward.
In the second quarter, the Spurs were already up 40-27 but then pushed their advantage to 31 points thanks to a 18-0 run in the span of four and a half minutes.
San Antonio’s offense has been struggling massively as of late. Tonight, they scored 120 points for the first time since the Spurs were forced to postpone four games due to a COVID-19 outbreak in mid-February.
Spurs vs. Bulls: Final Grades
The good: White did a really good job of spreading the floor by launching three-pointers early and often. It was also great to see his playmaking return. In his last three games, he had five assists in 100 minutes — so this was a notable step forward. Defensively, he was active and impactful. The bad: White’s drives to the hoop are really feeble right now. When at his best, his drives are powerful and athletic. Right now, he’s missing that aspect, which makes him a lot less valuable overall.
In the two games against the Clippers, DeRozan had five assists and seven turnovers, so it was good to see his passing acuity return against the Bulls. Scoring-wise, he picked his spots decently well. He disappeared at times but he was there when the Spurs needed him. Defensively, he had an uncharacteristically high number of bright spots.
I thought Murray quietly had a really good game. His running of the offense and decision-making were as crisp as we’ve seen it in recent weeks. He authored a number of heady passes and rarely got tunnel vision. Defensively, his effort was commendable. His team-defense was better than usual and his crashing of the boards was extremely helpful.
This was the second straight game Poeltl scored 20 points against the Bulls. Between the two games, the Bulls acquired an All-Star center in Nikola Vucevic — so this latest performance wasn’t against a slouch. On offense, Poeltl was making quick decisions — and they typically worked out well. (Chicago went to Hack-a-Jak in the fourth, which resulted in his inflated number of free throw attempts.) Defensively, he guarded the basket well, held his ground, assisted out on the perimeter and boxed out well.
Johnson started the homestand with three straight single-digit scoring performances. Versus the Bulls, he was able to regain his footing on that end of the court. His stubborn drives to the hoop paid dividends, as he repeatedly finished via acrobatic finishes. Defensively and on the boards, Johnson was a bit subdued. He’s getting his back wrapped when he’s on the bench so that might explain why his liveliness level is down as of late.
Mills was back in FIBA Patty mode. His movement was great and the relentlessness with which he searched out shots helped create opportunities for others. When the Spurs had it rolling, Mills was usually right in the thick of things. Defensively, his energy was palpable.
Gay was moving much better than usual, which helped him on both ends of the court. His length was particularly useful on the defensive end and he was a difference-maker on the boards. Offensively, I didn’t love all of his attempts and he broke the ball-movement at times. But, overall, Gay undeniably helped the Spurs win this game.
Eubanks had a very physical 17 minutes of action. He was colliding with players left and right — and was hitting the deck when his body needed to be sacrificed. He was brawny on the glass and his assertiveness on offense resulted in a few positive players. When the smoke cleared, it was difficult to figure how positively Eubanks impacted the contest but his courageousness for continually pinballing his body was worthy of kudos.
Samanic got a few real minutes — and didn’t do too well. Offensively, he was passing up shots and looked extra sloppy. Pop even ran a play or two for him but Samanic didn’t take advantage of open looks. Defensively, his running the court in transition and his closeouts on shooters could have been better.
Vassell left the game after twisting his ankle. With Lonnie Walker IV sidelined, let’s hope that Vassell’s ankle injury is minor.
A few more brainy passes by Jones.
Reynolds, the recently signed swingman, hit a smooth-looking floater in garbage time.
Weatherspoon’s hustle on defense that we saw in the bubble made an appearance tonight.
I like that Pop stuck with the starting lineup despite the recent struggles. The Spurs were playing really, really well — until the foot came off the gas. And Pop shouldn’t escape blame for that happening. It’s also not good that four starters played more than 30 minutes in a game that the Spurs dominated for long stretches — but, obviously, that turned out to be nearly unavoidable in this circumstance.
The Spurs now have back-to-back games against the Sacramento Kings. Hopefully they can keep their momentum flowing in the right direction.