Circus Trip: Spurs 103, Bulls 94

With 2:53 left in the second quarter, Kyle Korver and Omer Asik hooked up on a sweet pick and roll play that looked like something out of an instructional video. Korver delivered a perfect pass, Asik dunked the ball with authori-tah, and the Bulls built a nearly inconceivable 45-28 lead.

Everything was clicking. The Bulls starters had stood up to their Spurs counterparts. Chicago’s bench was playing with energy and inspiration. The offensive execution was crisp and efficient. The defense was stifling. Considering the competition, it may have been the best 21 minutes and seven seconds of basketball the Bulls had played all season.

I mean, think about it. The Spurs were 8-1 and riding a seven-game winning streak. And holding them to 28 points during the first 21:07? We’re talking about one of the best scoring teams in the league. San Antonio came into the game ranked 2nd in PPG (108.9), 3rd in Offensive Rating (111.8) and 6th in Pace (96.3).

To that point, Tom Thibodeau’s defense was making them look like a bunch of pickup ballers who were playing together for the first time.

But here’s the thing about running, gunning, high-scoring teams. You never know when the dam is going to burst.

Obviously, the third quarter was a disaster of near-epic proportions. It was like some dark magic transformed the Bulls into the Clippers for 12 minutes. Chicago shot 6-for-23 and scored only 12 points. That was a season low for a single quarter. Meanwhile, the Spurs were like a napalm storm (15-for-21 for 71 percent shooting) en route to dropping 37 third quarter points.

The Bulls’ improbable 17-point lead had been voodoo’d into a 16-point deficit heading into the final quarter.

To me, though, the real trouble began 19 seconds after Asik’s authoritative slam. San Antonio’s George Hill knocked down a long jumper while getting fouled by Korver. Initially, the shot was ruled a three-pointer and it looked like Hill was going to get the chance to convert a rare four-point play. Thibs called timeout, and the officials correctly downgraded Hill’s shot to a two-pointer.

But the damage was done. That play gave the Spurs a little life. Hill hit the free throw to cut Chicago’s lead to 14. After the teams traded empty possessions, Tony Parker drove in for a layup while getting fouled by Korver. His free throw cut the Bulls’ lead to 11 with 1:59 left in the quarter.

In all, San Antonio closed the quarter on a 9-2 run cut Chicago’s halftime lead to 47-37.

So, really, as mind-numbingly horrific as that third quarter was, the final 2:34 of the second quarter set up what happened. If the Bulls could have just closed out the quarter strong, maintained their lead or even built it up a few points, I might be ooh-ing and ah-ing over Derrick Rose, who drilled four straight shots (including a triple) while scoring 13 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter.

Instead, I only see the little, disturbing details. Like the fact that Rose had only 4 assists and one measley free throw attempt. Like Taj Gibon’s 0-for-7 shooting night (he’s now 1-for-16 in the last two games). Like Joakim Noah’s 0-for-4 shooting from the line and his game-worst plus-minus score (-22). Like Luol Deng’s 6-for-17 night. Like the fact that Thibodeau was so desperate for a spark he put Scalabrine in for nine minutes…and Scal had a better plus-minus score (+6) than any of the starters.

Still, the Bulls played three really good quarters of basketball against a surging team that might be shaping into a championship contender. If not for a two-and-a-half minute meltdown at the end of the first half, Bulls fans might be celebrating a big win.

The loss feels crappy. But maybe — assuming the team can clean up some of the sloppy play that led to their third quarter collapse — it’s actually reason for hope.

Recap, Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.


15 Responses to Circus Trip: Spurs 103, Bulls 94

    Joel November 18, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

    Great recap! Really captured the key moments of the game. The bad news was, of course, the loss. But Taj Gibson will snap out of it one of these days, and Deng won’t shoot so poorly.

    Most importantly, the Bulls are starting to click without Boozehoud. When he comes back (and Pax trades for a stud SG), this team could really be something.

  2. SteveL November 18, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    DENG NEEDS TO GO!!! I’m so sick of seeing Rose get the defense to bite, then kick it out to a wide open Deng for a 3 – only to see Deng miss a wide open 3 that he SHOULD make… Also, Deng is terrible/selfish in transition. Why is it that Deng never makes the much-needed extra pass on the fast break – despite the fact that there is usually a teammate in much better position to finish the play (i.e. Asik, Gibson…)??? Deng always selfishly keeps the ball, and usually messes up a simple fast break opportunity. Deng is a bum and needs to leave town!!

  3. Richard November 18, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    Rose only having 4 assists doesn’t really bug me..he set up plenty of teammates (Deng, Gibson) for open shots that they couldn’t make. Scal’s +/- score is only because he was on the floor when Rose went nuts, not because he actually did anything.

  4. shel November 18, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

    I noticed a few thing last night. During the third quarter the bulls played horrible defense. Rotations were horrible. Manu drove directly to the rim and no one helped on two occasions for a dunk. On another play Deng rotated to double on a drive. Jefferson was under the basket being guarded by Noah. He kicked the ball out to Bonner who hit a 3. Taj has lost his shot so far on the trip and Deng has really lost his shot. First two games and Luol is 12-38. I think he was 6-21 on Tuesday and 6-17 last night. If Luol or Taj shoot better the game could have ended different. Rose is now showing everyone he IS a superstar right now.

  5. Kevin November 18, 2010 at 2:31 pm #

    Watching Taj go 0-7 made me think of two things.

    First, he was getting completely outworked by Dejuan Blair on the boards and his shot just was not dropping, but continued to shoot it. Why didn’t Tibs put Asik in at the 5 and move Noah to the 4. You never expect Asik to score, but his defense is stifiling, and he does not force shots. That would have created better matchups with Noah on Duncan and Omer on Blair.

    Second, this game made it completely obvious why we need Boozer back. Carlos would have made the open jumpers Taj missed, and would have been able to create good shots, not force up bad ones.

    I love everything Taj does for this team, but the last two nights have shown that he is not quite an offensive force yet, but can finish the shots that the system gives him, which is why he will excel coming off the bench. When Boozer gets back we are going to work teams

  6. dengsucks November 18, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

    I think Thibs made a huge mistake when they bulls were up 17. He should have brought back in Rose and Noah, or at least just Rose. Its the same thing with the New York game, the bench can only get you so far. Perhaps if he had put in Rose and Noah, that lead would have held pact instead of diminishing.

    Also why is he playing Deng almost the entire first half he looked tired in the second half?

    bullsfandom November 18, 2010 at 3:36 pm #

    Carlos Boozer is another reason to hope. Just sayin.

    steelo November 18, 2010 at 3:47 pm #

    i’ve noticed the freethrows are a big weakness for the bulls. they dont get to the line as often as they would like. and when they do they go thru a stretch where they miss alot of them.

    they need to post up deng more (not a fan of his dribbling) , hes got great touch aroud the rim and im sure hes got some post moves.

    and whats up with omer asik. is this kid a steal or what ?

    Tony C. November 18, 2010 at 4:38 pm #

    Good review, Matt, and I agree that the end of the second quarter was the key turning point. It could be argues – in retrospect, of course – that Thibs should have kept the same (reserve) group in until halftime.

    A few random thoughts:

    Brewer continues on the upswing. I’d like to see him used more on the break with Rose, and on the finishing end of some alley-oops. He has a huge advantage over averaged-sized guards, and would be very dangerous receiving well-executed high passes around the rim. The problem is that Rose is not yet strong with touch passes, so he may not be the right player to initiate such plays.

    Thibs is obviously still experimenting with different combinations (e.g. Watson and Rose). That’s a good thing, though the dynamics will change yet again when Boozer begins to play.

    Free-throw shooting remains disgraceful. The Bulls will never win a big playoff series unless they seriously shore up that important aspect of the game.

    There was some progress in terms of getting Korver more shots. I’d like to see more progress.

    It will be very tough for the Bulls to beat top teams until Boozer is back, and well-integrated into the team. They just aren’t consistent enough, at least at this stage, to play four consecutive quarters without serious lapses.

    jleithart November 18, 2010 at 5:22 pm #

    Rose’s only free throw was the tech on Tim Duncan too

    Brad S. November 18, 2010 at 6:50 pm #

    Don’t know how many of you saw this article on Deng and the new coach:

    …Worth the read.

    Enigmatik November 18, 2010 at 7:40 pm #

    You hit the nail on the head in regards to when the dam began to crack. That foul by Korver killed the momentum that the Bulls had and from then on the Spurs ran away with the show.

    This team has consistently shown that they can put together 36 minutes of solid basketball…and they have also shown that 12 minute lapses will result in an L in the loss column every time.

    Rose’s assists were a point of concern, but it’s not like he didn’t try to find the open man…Gibson’s shot must be sitting at home in Chicago. Deng missed plenty of open looks as well…they have GOT to hit those.

    I feel like Brewer should have gotten more time down the stretch. He did a good job disrupting passing lanes and getting his hand the ball for a couple of steals and was also decent on the offensive end. Why Thibs stuck with Scal for so long in the fourth is beyond me.

    I feel like the only legitimate loss that the team has was against the Thunder…all the other games came down to being asleep at the wheel for 12 minutes, which I guess is all it takes.

    I can’t wait until Boozer comes back.

  13. TBF November 18, 2010 at 9:30 pm #

    People complaining about Rose’s assists…it’s tough to get assists when the other players on the team refuse to hit any shots. Deng and Gibson were 6 of 24. That’s rough man. Gibson has been particularly invisible the last 2 games.

    This game in particular underscored why we need Carlos Boozer. He gives you that guy who can post up or hit an open jumper. He’s a safety valve for when no one else is hitting shots.

    I also think the Bulls looked very tired in that third quarter. All the misses were short. That’s a sign of tired arms.

    Why was Deng playing the entire first half on the second night of a back to back? It’s like Coach Tibs was trying to wear him out.

    Oh well, no one wins them all. Regroup and take it to the Mavs on Sat. That’s a winnable game.


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