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Spurs beat Bulls in a highly entertaining contest

DeMar DeRozan returned to the AT&T Center but it was his old team that captured the spoils.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at San Antonio Spurs Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

In a game where offense was on full display the San Antonio Spurs beat the championship contending Chicago Bulls; 131-122. The Spurs lost the first quarter but from then on out they won each of the last three on route to their 19th victory of the season.

The game had a fast pace throughout and this was obvious early on when looking at the first quarter score. The Spurs went to Jakob Poeltl on their first two possessions of the game, taking advantage of Jakob’s fine offensive form as of late. Dejounte Murray on the other hand had two early turnovers by forcing passes into lanes that weren’t really open. Keldon Johnson had the matchup against former Spur, DeMar DeRozan in the game and he was attacking him on the offensive end using his size to get into the paint to finish, usually using a spin move. Momentarily, San Antonio got into one of their offensive funks that tends to happen every so often. To make matters worse they allowed Coby White two wide open threes which led to Pop calling two timeouts in quick succession. The home team did fight back in order to cut what was a nine-point deficit to only six by the end of the first quarter.

The Bulls sixth man, Coby White, extended his great start to early on in the second by attacking closeout for easy baskets in the paint. Dejounte failed to register a point in the first period, but he started to get going in the second. He had six straight with all of them coming around the rim after he had a few jumpers that fell out. DeMar was effective in the opening stretches of play as a facilitator, but he eventually got into a scoring groove where he was hitting all kinds of tough turnaround jumpers. This was another fast paced entertaining quarter with the Bulls ultimately leading going into the half; 68-63.

San Antonio started the second-half better than their opposition, especially Dejounte who had seven points in the first three minutes of the half which tied up the contest. After a great first half by DeRozan the Spurs started to double and blitz him nearly every time he caught the ball inside the three-point arc. Then former team-mates, Murray and DeRozan were going back and forth trading buckets in order to gain the momentum for their team. It was the Spurs who were able to do it when they hit back to back threes giving them a little bit of breathing room. When Dejounte went to the bench, Derrick then did a fine job of taking the mantle and helping the Silver & Black to a seven-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The Spurs started the fourth better than they ended the third by going on a 6-0 run which gave them their first double-digit lead of the game. The Bulls are one of the best teams in the league for a reason, and they weren’t going to stop coming at the home team. Billy Donovan brought back in most of his key guys which led to Chicago creeping back into the game by halving the deficit. San Antonio countered with a bucket from each of their three best players; Dejounte, Jakob & Derrick. With under a minute to go, DeMar hit a shot that he didn’t shoot much when he wore the Silver & Black, and that was a three pointer. This cut the score to four. The Spurs star, Dejounte Murray, was not going to let them give this game away, and he closed it in style. First was an assist to Jakob Poeltl off a pick and roll and then he hit a dagger floater over a few defenders after he beat the pressure of Zach LaVine. Some free throws later and the home team were walking out 131-122 winners.

Game Notes

  • Faster Pace = Good Offense. It should be no surprise that the Spurs score much more easily when they play with pace, they are in the top 5 in that category this season and they need to stay there to have any success on offense. When they play with pace they get more open looks from three and their assists numbers balloon. In this game against Chicago they had 35 assists on 50 field goals and hit 16/37 three pointers.
  • A Need to Solidify that Backup Big Role. The Spurs won this game by nine, and Jakob Poeltl was a plus-30. Drew Eubanks the backup center for this game was a negative-22. Again, plus minus is not indicative of individual play, but against the Bulls you could see the difference in the way the team played when Jakob was on the floor compared to off. Over the last few weeks Pop has flip-flopped between Eubanks and Jock Landale as who gets those minutes when Poeltl sits. But neither of them has taken that chance to really impress, luckily for the Spurs, Zach Collins return seems to be right around the corner. He has played well for the Austin Spurs and with the backup big role not locked in, Collins seems to have a good shot at making it his own once he gets his chance.
  • DeMar DeRozan. DDR returned to San Antonio for the first time since he left in the summer. He was given a heartfelt tribute video, a standing ovation and even MVP chants. The former Spur, has had great success so far this season, even getting named as an All-Star starter just yesterday. In his return he put up a great game, posting 32 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds while shooting as efficient as he always did when playing in the Alamo City. Go get that much, MUCH deserved ring, DeMar.

Play of the Game

Last season, Dejounte Murray, said this about DeMar DeRozan after he hit a clutch shot: “Big time players, hit big time shots”. Well against Chicago, playing against DeMar, it was Murray’s turn to hit a big time shot, because, he is also in fact, a big time player.

Spurs Valuable Player (SVP)

3rd place (1 point): Keldon Johnson | 40mins, 23 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 4/8 from 3

This seemed to be a very quiet 23 points for KJ, which is ironic, because Keldon is never quiet when he is on the court (or even off it to be exact). But in this game Johnson just went about his business, took what the defense gave him and shot efficiently. 50% from the field and 50% from three. Even though DeMar had a good game, Keldon played tough defense on him all night long, didn’t fall fakes, and contested nearly everything. But sometimes in this league, you come up against star players who still don’t miss, like DeRozan.

2nd place (2 points): Jakob Poeltl | 32mins, 21 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, plus-30

I talked about it earlier how vital Jakob is right now considering the lack of solid backup options at center. Once again, Jakob was sensational on both ends of the floor. He scored 21 points on 75% shooting and made 3/5 free throws. If he can get close to 20 every game while giving the same defensive effort as he always does, he has a chance to be a top-5 center in the NBA.

1st place (3 points): Dejounte Murray | 37mins, 29 points, 12 assists, 9 rebounds, 3 stls

Zero points in the first quarter, 29 in the three after. Dejounte who had a poor shooting game against Memphis started out slow again, but he did a great job of getting to the rim and seeing some shots start to fall which helped the other parts of his scoring game to work again. He shot 50% from the floor on 24 shots and made 2 out of his 4 threes, as that part of his game continues to improve. DJ did have a poor turnover game by giving the ball away 5 times, but when the Spurs needed him most, he delivered, like always.

Overall Leaderboard

1st - Dejounte Murray - 82pts

2nd - Jakob Poeltl - 48pts

3rd - Derrick White - 46pts

4th - Devin Vassell - 32pts

5th - Keldon Johnson - 28pts

6th - Lonnie Walker IV - 17pts

7th - Bryn Forbes - 12pts

8th - Doug McDermott - 11pts

9th - Thaddeus Young - 9pts

10th - Keita Bates-Diop - 5pts

11th - Jock Landale - 4pts

12th - Josh Primo - 3pts

13th - Drew Eubanks - 2pts

14th - Tre Jones - 1pt

Next Game: @ Suns on Sunday

The Spurs travel to play the Phoenix Suns in a one off road game before they will return home for another three straight at the AT&T Center. San Antonio has played the Suns close in all of their matchups this season but they have been unable to get a win against them, they will hope those fortunes change this time around.