The Bulls unfortunately messed around and found out, going into San Antonio to take the tanky Spurs and couldn’t pull out a win, heading back to Chicago with a 129-124 loss as the Spurs made enough plays in the final minute to secure their win.
Like other games this season, the Bulls starters (minus Zach LaVine, who sat this one in anticipation for tomorrow’s contest) found themselves in holes and had to have the bench bail them out. San Antonio started the game 5-6 from three and led by as much as 14 in the first half. But the Bulls bench units - again with Andre Drummond and Goran Dragic playing huge roles - got the team to a 9 point lead and lead by 2 at halftime.
The 2nd half had a similar feel, with the starters giving up runs and the bench digging out of the deficits and taking slight leads at points. There were scary moments from Ayo Dosumu (head) and Andre Drummond (shoulder) suffering injuries, but both were back available to end this game. And in that final stretch, Donovan stuck with an all-bench unit with DeRozan but they couldn’t get it done, giving up key baskets and a big swing play with a Javonte Green and-one erased by a charging call.
The final score belies many big offensive performances. DeMar DeRozan led with 33 points on 11-20 from the field. Drummond once again stuffed the box score with 17 points and 14 rebounds in 23 minutes, and again he earned the final stretch of action as Nikola Vucevic had his worst game of the season going 4-13 for only 9 points. Coby White was also out there at the end, as he had his best game of the season with 19 points off the bench. Patrick Williams also had his best game of the year, a low bar but still: 4-7 from the field for 10 points.
Williams actually had the best plus/minus of the starters, a mere -7. Caruso followed (starting for LaVine) with -11, Vuc+DeRozan were -15, and Dosunmu was -22. Meanwhile all the bench had positive plus/minus.
They just couldn’t stop the Spurs, who are not exactly trying to win, had their highest minutes-per-game player, Devin Vassell, out for the night, and bizarrely released last season’s lottery pick Josh Primo earlier in the evening. But they had enough: Keldon Johnson matched DeRozan with 33. Jakob Poetl was a beast with 21 points (10-12 from the field) and 13 rebounds. Someone named Tre Jones played 33 minutes and his team was +23 when he was on the court. They wound up going 16-38 from three, easily eclipsing the Bulls 9-27 mark from distance.
This was a ‘well, it’s the NBA and shit happens’ loss, but still a bad one. Zach LaVine strategically sat this one, likely due to the extra rest day but also figuring this was an easier matchup than the home date against the Sixers tomorrow. We shall see.