This game had the looks of being in the danger zone, a really early start (effectively 11am considering daylight savings time) on the road against a Spurs team that's been gaining steam. And the game sort of played to the expected form, with the Spurs making it 5 straight victories by putting up 116 on the Bulls.
The Spurs played extremely quickly all day, running out on Bulls misses and forcing a ton of bad-looking turnovers from a clogged-up Bulls offense. San Antonio had a ridiculous 35-9 edge in fast-break points, and while sometimes their quick shooting may have bailed the Bulls out of some defensive possessions, the relentless pressure ultimately overwhelmed Chicago. The Bulls were outscored by 12 in the second quarter to see themselves down 18 at half, and at that point San Antonio had a huge edge in both three-pointers as well as free throws.
The Bulls were 1-7 in the first half from three but in the 3rd quarter went 3-6, and also helped even the margin at the line by going 11-12, getting the Bulls to a shocking total of 38 points in the period. For a team with a lot of their offense inactive, they did their best to try and keep the deficit manageable: usually hovering around 12 and as low as 8 at one time. Even Nazr Mohammed (who got significant PT with the Spurs playing so many bigs) shot 4-4 from the field, with two baskets coming from airballs from Hinrich (telecast generously called it a lob) and Gasol. Those were the only misses from two-point range in the whole 3rd quarter from the Bulls, and they went in Nazr's hands.
Aaron Brooks had maybe his best game as a starter, finishing with 22 points on 12 shots, but gave more than that back to Tony Parker on the other end. Parker's been struggling all year, but had one of his best games of the season today. Finishing with 32 points, he was the one keeping the Spurs lead in that third quarter scoring 15 straight Spurs points. He was feasting when going around screens, alternatively getting to the rim or fading away for easy midrange jumpers. In the 4th, after the Bulls had gotten it to 8 again, Parker capped a quick 9-0 run with a three-pointer, effectively putting this game away while the broadcast turned to issues like whether Pau Gasol should count in the league's latino appreciation month.
Like Parker, Kawhi Leonard is also looking healthier and better for the Spurs, and though he shot 9-20 he was brilliant defensively with 3 of the Spurs mind-boggling-high 15 steals in the game.
To put on my 'Mike from Illinois' hat, that's a steal total that hadn't been done by any team this year, and outside of 2 times against last year's Lakers (which doesn't totally count) it hadn't been achieved in 5 seasons UPDATE: I screwed up the B-R sort function, and so now I've learned (from the actual Mike) it's not that uncommonly high at all.
The Bulls had 22 turnovers overall and outside of that third quarter it was a real struggle to facilitate any offense from Gasol and Noah, though both played alright. Gasol was the team's leading scorer with 23 and Noah had 9 assists. They also held Tim Duncan to a career-worst game, as in going 0-8 from the field in 27 minutes he finished without a field goal in a game for the first time in his career. However, Noah also had 5 turnovers and went a mere 2-3 from the field as the Spurs gave him all the room in the world to shoot. Nikola Mirotic struggled too with 4 turnovers, though he gobbled up a lot of late (merely sorta-garbage?) points to finish with 19. Tony Snell had his first awful game in a while going 0-6 in 29 minutes, and Doug McDermott had a 3 as his only make, going 1-5 overall and losing a shoe. Without those two providing shooting to help Dunleavy, it was never going to be enough baskets to keep up with the Spurs today, as they went 9-22 from three and only had 7 turnovers all game.