Spurs bounce Bulls in second half surge

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

After giving up 52 first-half points, San Antonio's defense went into lockdown mode ... and Manu Ginobili took the game over.

This won't be a long recap, as I have to wake up at an ungodly hour tomorrow morning. But let's talk about a few things, shall we?

This was a gut-check game for San Antonio against an angry Chicago team, and things seemed to get chippy along the way at the AT&T Center because of it. The Bulls hit the Spurs in the mouth with their best first-half punch, but the silver and black put on a clinic on both sides of the ball in the second. Most teams that lose their leading scorer fall flat on their face, offensively. This group just seems to create even more confusion for the opposition.

When Tony Parker is on the floor, you know where the head of the snake is at all times. But when he's not, the serpent is coiled without much of a clue as to the whereabouts of either end. You can guess the point of attack, but chances are you'll end up being bitten.

The Spurs (48-14) overcame a five-point halftime deficit to roll the Bulls 101-83, allowing just 31 second-half points while scoring 54 of their own after the break. And speaking of the Spurs' point guard position, Parker's replacements, especially Patty Mills, were pretty good. Mills scored 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting, including 3-for-3 from the arc, in only 22 minutes while Cory Joseph was solid defensively and on the glass in his second consecutive start. But many of the good looks Spurs players got throughout the game were the result of Manu Ginobili's brilliance.

Once again, Numero Veinte stole the show.

His 18 points and nine assists in just 26 minutes were the difference in the game, and as the Spurs pulled away from the Bulls in the second half it felt like Ginobili was involved in every play. Six of Manu's nine assists came in the second half, and while most of his scoring came before the intermission (11 of his 18 points) he was able to get anywhere he wanted within the depths of the vaunted Bulls defense. And perhaps the most telling observation of Manu's physical state, he found his way to the rim with relative ease against a team not known for giving up a whole lot of penetration.

With Ginobili's recent admission of the effects age is having on the future Hall-of-Famer, watching him play effectively aggressive is as welcoming a development as the Spurs could ask for sans Parker.

And on the other side of the court, the Spurs second-half defense was nearly impenetrable. Nobody's confusing the Derrick Rose-less Bulls with the Showtime Lakers, but holding an NBA team to just 31 points in a half after giving up 52 in the previous two quarters is a crucial adjustment for a team without its best offensive player. If there's one thing the Spurs must do during Parker's stead, it's play defense. You never know when the offensive lulls might come and go, but if the defense stay consistent San Antonio will have a chance every night.

Chicago shot 30 percent (13-for-43) in the second half, and the Spurs outscored the Bulls 46-22 in the paint — 22-4 in the second half alone. And if San Antonio can shoot 54 percent from the floor against one of the league's top defenses, the offensive outlook going forward is pretty bright. But the narrative will continue as the Spurs go on without Parker — can Ginobili stay healthy?

If he can, the Spurs could find themselves sitting pretty come April, because it's looking like the guy can still play.

Then again, that should surprise no one.


Notes:

Kawhi Leonard had another good game against the Bulls with 14 points and seven boards. He put up a career high of 26 points in the teams' previous matchup.

Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter each put up a double-double and combined to score 33 points. Duncan had five freaking blocks as he continues some of the most dominant individual defensive play of his career.

— Spurs remain 2.5 games up on the Thunder for the top spot in the West.

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