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Spurs @ Bulls, Final Score: Spurs lose a close one in Chicago 92-89

The Bulls executed better than the Spurs down the stretch and pulled out a close win tonight in Chicago, breaking a five game win streak by the Spurs behind solid performances from Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs lost to the Chicago Bulls 92-89 in a hard-fought contest that was close until then end, but the Bulls executed slightly better down the stretch to pull out a narrow victory. The Spurs had a shot to tie the game with 10 seconds left but Chicago kept the San Antonio shooters locked down and they couldn't get an open look. The Bulls got a great game from Pau Gasol and Derrick Rose, but their entire lineup performed well down the stretch. The Spurs looked great for stretches, but they were cold from beyond the three point line, shooting only 2-14, while the Bulls shot 6-16 from beyond the arc. Kawhi Leonard had a great game for the good guys, but the Spurs bench wasn't as effective as the starters.

Sometimes early this season, the Spurs offense has seemed like a mixture of styles that didn't quite mesh:

But at the start, it looked like the Spurs were starting to come together. The first quarter started well for the good guys, as Tim won the tip without even jumping, and the first 10 points from the Spurs were scored by 5 different players, which was the most Spursy thing ever.  The Spurs surged to a 23-17 lead at the end of the first, with LaMarcus Aldridge scoring 10 in the quarter.

The second quarter started with a straight away three from Boris to increase the lead to 9, but then the Spurs went cold and Doug McDermott and Jimmy Butler got hot for the Bulls.  Rose was aggressive, and began to heat up towards the end of the quarter.  The Spurs were outscored 33-22 for the rest of the quarter and entered halftime down one, 49-48. The Bulls were able to get good runouts and outscored the Spurs 8-0 on fast break points in the half.

The Spurs started slowly in the third quarter, and it felt like deja vu all over again as the Spurs missed open shots as the Bull surged to a 56-50 lead behind a shot from Nikola Mirotic, but then Danny Green hit a three-point shot and then Kawhi went to work.  A driving dunk followed by a steal which led to a foul from Butler, and the Spurs were ahead, 57-56. Kawhi and Aldridge continued to play well for the good guys, but the Bulls hung tough behind baskets from Gasol, Rose and Butler and kept the score close.  Joakim Noah shot two free throws, and he demonstrated why he's probably the most foulable player in the NBA, as he demonstrated the most horrible shooting form I've ever witnessed. But he showed that he can fight under the basket and hit a tough basket with 22 seconds left in the quarter.  Patty Mills closed out the quarter for the good guys and they were up 73-70 at the end of the third.

The Bulls scored the first seven points of the fourth, behind some slick moves from Tony Snell and E'Twuan Moore.  Noah continued to provide energy for the Bulls and was able to score with his awkward one-handed push shot.  It could have been even worse, but Moore air-balled a free throw.  The Bulls led 81-75 with nine minutes left, but the Spurs climbed back the game in behind splendid one-on-one play from Kawhi Leonard and a timely basket from Tim Duncan. With 4:20 left, Tony Parker hit a jumper to put the Spurs ahead by a point 86-85.  But the scrappy Bulls weren't done, and the last 4 minutes of the game seesawed back and forth as each team either hit clutch baskets or made good defensive plays.  Derrick Rose missed a free throw, but Duncan fouled Gasol to give the Chicago two more, which allowed them to go up 89-87 the game with 2:59 left. Tim atoned by making a basket on the other end, and with 51 seconds left on the clock and the score tied at 89, Manu Ginobili made a critical mistake, fouling Pau Gasol as the clock was winding down.

Gasol hit 1-2 free throws to put the Bulls up by one.  Manu missed the shot on the return trip, and the Bulls were able to run down the clock to 10 seconds and get Butler to drive to the basket where he was fouled by Aldridge.  The Spurs called time out and had 10 seconds to make up the three point deficit.  But it was not to be.  The ball was thrown into Kawhi who was blanketed at the three point line by Butler.  Kawhi got off a shot, but it fell well short. Duncan got the rebound and sent it out to Parker, who also missed badly on the three point attempt.  Chicago rebounded the ball and the winning streak was over.

It was a great game from Kawhi and Aldridge, 25 points and 21 points respectively, but the bench didn't do as well, and they weren't able to keep the Bulls from erasing the lead that the starters had been able to build up when they were in the game.  Kawhi played 40 minutes, so he can't be asked to give more than he did tonight. Manu was -17 on the night, but he's had such a great year so far, maybe he can be excused for not having such a great game once in a while.  Tim Duncan, as always, was great on the night. I assume it's going to be a learning experience for the good guys. You have to give credit to the Bulls. They played well the whole game, especially down the stretch. This lineup, if it stays healthy, will be a contender in the Eastern Conference.

Did Boban Play?  NO:

For the Bull's point of view, visit Blog a Bull. The next game for the Spurs is on Wednesday 7:30 PM at the AT&T Center against the Milwaukee Bucks.