Not that we didn't figure that the Bulls were in deep tonight in San Antonio, but what was a surprisingly tight first half turned into a disappointing second, as the Bulls were outscored 54-31 in the final 24 minutes in what turned out to be a comfortable victory for the Spurs.
The game did start out with that feel, as the Bulls were down 8-0 early and started the game shooting 3-15 from the field. Nate Robinson missed his first 6 shots only to lamely goofball his way to his first field goal, but the Bulls were able to overcome that 'point guard play' by capitalizing off of Spurs turnovers. Led by a couple of big double-digit scoring runs, the Bulls actually wound up going into the half with a lead.
The Spurs had 10 turnovers in that first half, but only 2 in the second. And that was a problem, because when they weren't throwing the ball away they were really taking it to Chicago from all angles. Tim Duncan was brilliant in his matchup against Joakim Noah, with 18 points and 10 rebounds headlined by his 5 blocks and ability to really frustrate Noah's inside game. Noah finished 4-13 from the field with 2 of them being of the tornado variety, but their battle was entertaining, as was a lot of this game overall until the 4th quarter.
Duncan's night was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to the Spurs contributors. Kawhi Leonard followed up his fantastic game in Chicago with 14 points and several dunks. Tiago Splitter gave them a post option on his way to 13. Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills gave their bench unit a huge second half (and a combined 6-8 from three for the game), and it went all the way down to minor contributions, like Boris Diaw forcing Carlos Boozer out of the game with two straight baskets, and neutralizing the Bulls small-ball by wisely leaving Jimmy Butler alone. The whole last 10 minutes of the ESPN broadcast (which earlier included a live look-in on the Heat's big win which was part of a 9-0 Spurs run, double-ugh) was a tribute to the Popovich system, and it seemed warranted. Maybe it rubbed off on Thibs a bit, as Noah did sit the final couple minutes for Lou Amundson, heh.
On the plus side of the Bulls ledger tonight, Marco Belinelli had his second straight high-output game with 21 points (14 in the first half), while also limiting his starting counterpart Danny Green to a quiet night. Belli also had a team-high 7 assists. Marquis Teague hit the first 3 three-pointers of his career in a pretty-flukey 11 points considering he took only a single (missed) shot in the paint. But that said (plus his defense was pretty poor), Teague's PG play was technically a bit better than Nate Robinson, who finished a woeful 3-13 and had a shot selection that took away from one of the few things that was working (Belinelli). So...one and a half good performances. Luol Deng was OK I guess as well. With the roster being what it is right now, the Bulls need more than that, and were given an example by the Spurs.