The Spurs put their 13-0 road record on the line against the Chicago Bulls in the United Center and the result, especially offensively, was not the most aesthetically pleasing. Though the road has been the Spurs' home away from home so to speak, the Windy City was decidedly unkind to the Silver and Black as the Spurs trailed the entire game, falling 95-91 to the Bulls, and preventing them from matching the 2015-2016 Warriors' NBA record 14-0 road start. Kawhi Leonard led the way for the Spurs with 24 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists, while Dwyane Wade posted 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists for Chicago.
It was a low-scoring affair early on, though not necessarily due to stellar defensive efforts by both teams. The Spurs and Bulls generated several open looks in half-court and transition, but the ball continued to decide it was too good for its home. Robin Lopez got a pair of hook shots to fall while Taj Gibson knocked down a couple of jumpers for Chicago. Every Spurs starter besides Danny Green scored each of the first four baskets for the good guys. LaMarcus Aldridge drained a midrange jumper, Kawhi Leonard used some post moves to get by Jimmy Butler, Tony Parker attacked the basket for a baseline layup, and Pau Gasol drove to the rim for an easy two. Despite the offensive talent on both teams, the score was all tied up at just 8 points apiece halfway through the quarter. Doug McDermott provided a spark off the bench for the home team, immediately making the Spurs pay from downtown followed by a fast break layup. Patty Mills and David Lee did what they could to help the Spurs' struggling offense, but the good guys never held the lead in the opening frame and found themselves trailing 21-17 at the end of one.
Jonathon Simmons, founding member of the Juice Unit, breathed life into a lackadaisical Spurs squad at the start of the second by driving down the lane for one of his patented slam dunks. J-Simms then went from hero to Shaqtin' as he stole the ball for a breakaway dunk in transition, double-pumped and missed a wide-open slam, causing the ball to go out of bounds and preventing the Spurs from tying the game. The Bulls took advantage of this missed opportunity by going on an 11-2 run, doing the bulk of their damage at the charity stripe while the Spurs simply could not find any semblance of an offensive rhythm. Just to illustrate the extent of the Spurs' offensive woes, Chicago forward Cristiano Felicio, who I'm sure is a gentleman and a scholar and a perfectly fine player that you're just now finding out exists, scored 7 points in the first half, more than any Spurs player besides Kawhi Leonard, who also had 7 points on 3-8 from the field. Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler went scoreless with 0 points on 0-5 shooting, but the Spurs were still down 45-32 at the half.
The Spurs managed just 15 points the entire second quarter, but they came out of the locker room firing, scoring 15 points less than five minutes into the third frame. Unfortunately, Chicago was feeling it as well and the good guys were unable to cut into the home team's lead by the time Jimmy Butler drained his first bucket of the game, making it a 60-47 contest. Butler dropped 9 straight points for the Bulls, formally announcing his arrival to the United Center as he and Kawhi traded buckets. Robin Lopez was a key reason why the Bulls were able to hold off a Spurs run, outdueling Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge on the boards while using physical defense to force them into contested looks. Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills, and David Lee combined to score the last 16 points of the quarter for the Spurs, slowly but surely whittling the home team's 18-point advantage down to single-digits, leaving the Spurs trailing 72-63 heading into the fourth.
Patty Mills began the fourth by doing Patty Mills things, sinking a contested three after a flawless possession where every Spur touched the ball, a rarity for the post-Beautiful Game Spurs. Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, and that pesky Cristiano Felicio were not about to let the Spurs get within five, and the trio quickly pushed the Chicago lead back to 10 on the strength of three consecutive buckets. Kawhi Leonard answered with back-to-back and-1's of the "ridiculous" variety. The Spurs cut the Bulls lead down to 6 on three separate occasions in the fourth, and all three times the Bulls refused to let the visitors make it a one-possession game. Part of this was the Spurs' own doing as Aldridge continued his poor shooting night (and season) by clanking an open jumper, followed by Danny Green missing a wide-open fast break triple. Questionable foul calls on a Doug McDermott three-point attempt from the corner and a Jimmy Butler midrange shot came in the waning moments, all but shutting the door on a miraculous Silver and Black comeback. The Bulls were able to hold off the Spurs, handing them their first road loss of the season.