The Bulls were again without Jimmy Butler in Thursday's TNT matchup in San Antonio (Butler is okay...supposedly), where the Spurs had won 39 straight games heading into play. The Bulls fought hard throughout, but more sloppiness and a late Spurs surge resulted in San Antonio winning its 40th straight game at home, 109-101.
But hey, Fred Hoiberg picked up his first EVER technical foul in the NBA, so that's the real story here:
Fred Hoiberg was really far onto court while picking up first NBA technical pic.twitter.com/Yj2ndDEaPX— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) March 11, 2016
Fred had a point arguing Taj Gibson getting fouled on a missed dunk, but oh well. I digress.
Kawhi Leonard was brilliant from the very start, knocking down jumper after jumper early on and going on to finish with 29 points on 10-of-15 shooting. Obviously not having Butler around to guard Leonard made it tough for the Bulls, but I'm not sure how much that would've mattered. Considering what he was when he entered the league, it's absolutely incredible to see the development Leonard has made. He's got such a smooth jumper and rarely makes mistakes. A top five player in the league.
While Leonard was busy dominating offensively, he also drew the Derrick Rose assignment on the other end. Rose had an up-and-down game, as he was way off to start, although he got himself some good looks even with Leonard on him. He started to find a bit of a rhythm after that slow start before falling back again, only to get hot at the start of the fourth quarter to keep the Bulls within striking distance. Unfortunately he didn't score another point after the 10:18 mark (some pointed out on Twitter that he was laboring a bit) and finished with 21 points and six assists on 9-of-21 shooting.
Not a bad line at all for Rose, but he really struggled on the other end against Tony Parker. The Frenchman controlled the game the entire time he was on the floor, finishing with 20 points and 12 assists on 10-of-16 shooting. Rose fell asleep a few times on back-cuts and had issues guarding the pick-and-roll, which is basically a team-wide issue at this point. LaMarcus Aldridge took advantage of the Bulls' questionable defense as well, pouring in 26 and 10 on 10-of-19 shooting.
But as good as the Spurs looked for much of the game, the Bulls were able to stay in it in large part thanks to hot three-point shooting (11-of-22). E'Twaun Moore was awesome again (expect when he played spectator for Danny Green's absurd putback dunk), scoring 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting and 4-of-5 from three. I have no idea how he's sustaining this shooting, but it's happening and it's been a pleasant surprise. The Bulls should probably keep him around.
Justin Holiday chipped in two three-pointers and had some nice moments off the bench, totaling 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting and generally being active on the floor. Of course, part of that activity level involved him being actively bad, as his three turnovers were part of yet another Bulls turnover fest. Chicago turned it over 21 times on the night, with Pau Gasol the main culprit with seven giveaways.
Gasol's overall numbers of 21 points, 12 boards and four assists on 8-of-16 shooting certainly look nice, but he was largely awful in the first half and those seven turnovers were a killer. He did help the Bulls keep things close with a big third quarter, but I'd call this one of those empty stat games for him.
Still, I'll give the Bulls props for fighting the entire way and not getting blown out. There were several points where it looked like things were going to get away from them, but they hung around and hung around. Another relatively poor performance from the Spurs' bench (they were awful in the first meeting) helped, but Chicago deserves some credit for that.