The Bulls welcomed a 14-3 San Antonio Spurs team that was leading the league in defensive efficiency, so you had to figure that this wouldn't be the game where the Bulls would find their offensive potency. And they didn't, in fact for much of the game they didn't look very good at all. But it didn't matter because their own defense was the difference in another big win against a Western Conference opponent.
The Bulls didn't score a field goal in the final six and a half minutes, but hit 7-10 from the line in that stretch (they were 5-10 before then) to do just enough in a 3 point victory. Their possessions didn't exactly look good either, but both Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose were driving aggressively and Gasol battled for loose balls and it was enough. The Gasol-Mirotic inside tandem was actually downright formidable in those clutch possessions. In the final one where the Spurs found themselves down three, they gave themselves 2 chances but Butler was absolutely draping Kawhi Leonard and then a kick-out to Tony Parker was tipped by a closing out Rose. During the Bulls own long FG drought they only allowed 9 points and 16 in the entire 4th, so that'll help.
San Antonio could not get on track for much of the game, even though especially in the opening quarter they looked to get where they wanted to but couldn't finish or were over-passing on the inside. The key thing keeping the Bulls in the game was the three-pointer, as while the Spurs were a paltry 2-14 the Bulls had 6 makes from Snell, McDermott, and Mirotic. Again, not huge numbers, but in a game like this it mattered. The Bulls underwhelming SFs both had solid nights, with McDermott hitting his first four shots for 10 points (he finished 5/12 for 12 points), and Snell hitting 4/5 in 23 minutes for 11 points.
It was also one of the better games of the season from Joakim Noah, who was still not doing as much dominating as he should've on the glass if we're hoping for prime Jo, but considering reduced expectations a 10point, 11reb, 7ast line in 23 minutes is outstanding. He wound up sitting again in the final minutes (5 fouls didn't help) but it wound up working out for the Bulls as Gasol was holding his own defensively when camped under the rim. Things have been working out more times than not this season.
LaMarcus Aldridge was brilliant in the first half with 15 points but went 3-9 in the second half and didn't score in the 4th. I wasn't sure what Mirotic's plan was on some of those pick and roll coverages, but even when someone else would actually step up on Aldridge he was making them to start the game. Kawhi Leonard didn't shoot very well but was pretty fantastic otherwise, outplaying Jimmy Butler in a matchup of similarly-gamed players. He was especially good in the 3rd quarter to get the Spurs a brief lead, but was 0-3 in that final 6-minute stretch.
And the Spurs got a whole lot of nothing from so many other players. Tim Duncan was getting cooked by Pau Gasol when matched up (Pau led the Bulls with 18), and missed several inside attempts. David West was total trash. Danny Green was effectively left alone by the Bulls scheme and he only validated that strategy. Manu Ginobili looked like he just couldn't pull the trigger, with McDermott's defense deserving some credit on that one.
The Bulls lineups without Butler, Rose, and Mirotic (aka 'Hoibergo') actually made nice runs in both halves. It helped that Joakim was very active, and that without the other two backup PGs E'Twaun Moore was very good defensively again, earning closing minutes at the SG spot. When the Bulls took the lead for good in the 4th it was on two Moore runners and Snell actually hitting a 2-pointer. It was that kind of night, where the Bulls looked bad and Derrick Rose looked worse (the less said on him tonight, the better) but the Bulls have been winning those more than not this year. And so with an overall performance that can only be described as 'average', the Bulls record stands at 10-5.