The Lone Star state was an apt setting for this latest Bulls' offensive horror show.
A 101-83 loss to the San Antonio Spurs was largely brought on by the Bulls inability to make plays in the half court. With no stars capable of breaking defenders down off the dribble and scoring solo, the Bulls offense became too reliant on second chance and fast break points against one of the top defenses in the NBA.
Marco Belinelli had another good game as a starter in place of the injured Rip Hamilton, putting up 21 points along with two rebounds and seven assists. Luol Deng added 19 points and seven rebounds and rookie point guard Marquis Teague set a career-high with 11 points as he knocked down a trio of first half threes in a valiant effort. Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan paced the Spurs with 18 points apiece. Duncan also blocked five shots, with four coming in the first quarter.
The first half, at least, was competitive. The Bulls recovered from an early 8-0 deficit to go on a run and lead 21-16 on the back of solid defensive play. The Spurs were careless with the ball and this allowed Chicago chances to score in transition, a rarity for the team but an absolute must if it hopes to challenge in the playoffs. The second quarter saw the teams trading baskets as the tempo and the scoring efficiency picked up. Marquis Teague found himself knocking down three threes in the opening half, his first made threes of the season.
Bringing in a 52-47 lead at halftime, the Bulls could not feel comfortable but could at least feel pleased with themselves as they hung with one the elite teams in the league despite Rose (knee), Hinrich (toe), Hamilton (back) and Gibson (knee) all nursing injuries from the sideline.
The third quarter continued in much the same fashion as the first half ended with baskets being traded back and forth.
Ultimately, the game was decided in the final minutes of the third quarter and opening sequence of the fourth as the Spurs put together a 14-0 run capped by a pair of back-to-back threes from Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills. The run really killed off the Bulls' chances of earning an upset victory as the Spurs cruised the rest of the way.
Missing in action was Nate Robinson. Save for a handful of assists and forcing a brace of turnovers in the second quarter, Nate's 3-13 performance highlighted the Bulls issues – relying on Robinson for production is a precarious and volatile strategy.
New Bull Lou Amundson logged his first minutes for the team with a few minutes remaining and the game already finished as a contest.
The loss leaves the Bulls with a 34-27 record and a 2.5 game advantage over the Milwaukee Bucks in the eighth seed in the East. The team is now looking back at those behind rather than those in front, which must be a worry for fans, coaching staff and front office members alike.
Next up for the Bulls, the Utah Jazz before a trip to the play the Lakers (again) on National TV on Sunday.
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