Spurs Look Winded in Loss to Bulls
Basically, that's my way of imploring you to remember that we do take these things with a gigantic mountain of salt, but here's what happened. And trust me, the Spurs are going to want to brush this one off.
The San Antonio Spurs consider themselves a championship contender. Loaded with talent both young and old, they consider themselves ready to compete with the Lakers for the Western Conference crown. But to do so they'll need to get the highest seed possible to face weaker opponents in early rounds. And in order to get that high seed, they'll need to win back-to-back games on the road. On Thursday they looked like that might be more of a challenge than they're ready for at this early stage, as the Spurs fell to the Chicago Bulls 92-85.
It was a night where the Spurs shot 19 percent from 3-point land, shot only 42 percent overall, and were beaten on the offensive glass, 15-8. But the most glaring thing you came away with in this game was that for a team that was supposed to have reloaded to get rid of that "old, tired" description that's hung around them for years, even when they were winning championships, the Spurs were blown away by the Bulls' speed, energy, and athleticism.
Tim Duncan did what he does, scoring 28 points on 19 shots with 16 boards and 3 blocks, a simply sublime performance. But Manu Ginobili was the only other Spur in double digits with 12, while Tony Parker shot 4-11, Richard Jefferson 3-9, and Roger Mason 0-4. Rookie sensation and instant hype machine DeJuan Blair had only 6 points and 4 rebounds in 12 minutes, good for a rookie, but close to what he'll probably produce night in and night out.
The Spurs were unable to close off penetration lanes, unable to block out Joakim Noah and Luol Deng (10 offensive rebounds combined), and unable to lock down Derrick Rose, who finished with 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists with just one turnover. The Bulls consistently were able to produce quality ball rotations leading to open three pointers. If the Bulls had shot better than their putrid 19% from the arc, the difference could have been greater. As it was, Luol Deng looked capable of filling in some of the gap from Ben Gordon's departure, Derrick Rose looked like he was progressing, Joakim Noah is a top 10 center in the league right now, and Kirk Hinrich provides both shooting and defensive toughness with quality minutes.
Perhaps most startling is that the Spurs, normally so resolved mentally, could have such a flat night so early. Just last night they walloped the Hornets, running them ragged and dominating them defensively. But against a Bulls squad who arguably have a better roster 1-10 than the Hornets, the Spurs looked not only slow and languid, but lost.
I'd expect an unpleasant conversation happened in the locker room after Thursday's game and that the Spurs will answer. But the loss might also be best served as a reminder to the Spurs not to believe the hype, and that like they always preach, they've got to keep pounding that rock with the hammer if they want to collect the one for the thumb.