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San Antonio vs. Chicago, Final Score: Spurs fall apart after three competitive quarters against Bulls, 128-104

San Antonio was unable to physically or mentally respond to the final run of the Bulls in the second half

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Chicago Bulls
Andre Drummond bullied whoever was in front or around him to the tune of a double-double
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio began its annual Rodeo Road trip with an entertaining back-and-forth tilt with Chicago that, despite nearly 20 ties and lead changes, turned the Bulls’ way in game-ending 49-21 run that spanned the third and fourth quarters led by old hands DeMar DeRozan and Andre Drummond.

The promise of a competitive game, after six lead changes in the opening moments, was briefly laid to waste by a Zach LaVine-led 11-0 run to move the Bulls ahead after one. The teams took turns making mini-runs in the second period before Keldon Johnson put his offensive stamp on the game, and Chicago was fortunate to end a scintillating first half up 62-59.

The relentless Spurs continued pressing the Bulls throughout the third and even grabbed a tenuous hold of the lead as a result of Johnson’s (Keldon) leadership and bench efforts, but were turned back after DeRozan woke up from a mid-game slumber with three critical buckets to conclude the third. Chicago ran away with the game behind a sheer combination of tougher defensive intimidation from the hosts, paint domination by the Bulls frontline, and splintering of offensive progress from the Spurs.

Because of Tre Jones, Jeremy Sochan, Devin Vassell, and Romeo Langford’s absences from tonight’s action, San Antonio’s (Keldon) Johnson (21 points) and Jakob Poeltl (14 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists) capably carried the load throughout the first 2.5 quarters before the young and callow Spurs wilted from the pressure of an energized Chicago team. Malaki Branham (15 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists) continued to impress in his increased workload.

Chicago’s DeRozan (19 points and 5 assists), and Nikola Vucevic (22 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists) did the heavy lifting in the home team’s second half comeback and all five starters chipped in double figures. Drummond (21 points. 15 rebounds, and 3 steals) and Zach LaVine (20 points and 4 rebounds) chipped in during their teammates’ mid-game slump.


  • NBA TV showed 2013 Finals Game 7 yesterday - presumably as a lead-up to LeBron’s expected breaking of Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s scoring record this week - and each successive re-watch of it still aches terribly. What I observed this time was how bad of a game Manu Ginobili played. In the final quarter, he was lured into a charge by Birdman, threw a crosscourt pass four feet wide of Gary Neal, put up too many bricks to count, and then attempted an over-the-head pass attempt to Tim Duncan that was stolen in the closing moments. Oof.
  • There’s not many introductions like the Bulls theme music. Though it hit a lot harder in Ray Clay’s heyday.
  • I can’t find the right term other than ‘comforting’ to have former assistance coach PJ Carlesimo on these broadcasts.
  • Despite the rough season, San Antonio (as a team) and Poeltl individually managed to make it onto Kevin O’Connor’s (The Ringer) trade deadline article twice in the aftermath of the Kyrie Irving trade.
  • Malaki’s Magic: Early in the first, Branham sold a drive to the basket and laid it off nicely around the defender to Poeltl for a lay-up - and that was even prior to hitting any perimeter buckets before this action.
  • Josh Richardson and Poeltl make a pretty nice battery on the pick and rolls!
  • Keldon’s Kitchen: The noticeable weight loss from previous seasons seems to help him most in his dribble-drives - particularly with changes-of-direction.
  • Sequence of the Game #1: Late in the opening frame, Stanley Johnson floated an entry pass to a waiting Keita Bates-Diop, who one-touched it to a cutting Zach Collins for a slam.
  • Sequence of the Game #2: Johnson (Keldon) snagged an errant LaVine pass midway through the second quarter and rambled (like a Bull, amirite) through all of the Chicago players for a big-bodied and-1. His offensive rebound and follow on the next possession shaved the Bulls’ lead to one.
  • The Bulls’ Dunkin Donuts race seems far more exciting than the Dot Races.
  • Both teams stormed out of the gate with five straight lay-ups, eight straight makes, and put up 38 points between them in the opening half of the quarter. LaVine led a 11-0 run to surge ahead of the Spurs. When the Bulls missed, they picked up offensive rebounds with relative ease. Rookie Blake Wesley nicely knocked down a sideline three and went end-to-end for an impressive layup shortly after. Chicago left the period up 39-28.
  • Jumpers by Branham and Doug McDermott followed by an impressive pick-and-roll assist from Johnson (Stanley) to Collins brought San Antonio within six to start the second. The Bulls pushed back and punctuated a 7-0 run with a Vucevic dunk, which were quickly answered by Isaiah Roby and Branham buckets. Johnson (Keldon) went on a personal 7-0 rampage in response to Ayo Dosunmu’s paint scores. An adventurous drive from Bates-Diop netted him a layup to draw San Antonio within three at the break.
  • To start the third, Vucevic answered Poeltl’s lay-up with two quick scores of his own, which drew Pop’s ire. Branham paired a baseline floater and layup on a cut that both actions would have made Sean Elliott proud. Timeout entertainment, Bucket Boys, was fully apropos for the occasion as the teams put up 25 points in the first four minutes. Johnson (Keldon) helped tie things at 74 for a moment. After they squandered chances to take the lead, two Collins freebies and Johnson (Stanley, Flat) powered through LaVine for an and-one to put the Spurs up three. Despite all of the above goodwill, a trio of DeRozan buckets vaulted Chicago back into the lead exiting the third 90-85.
  • Five inceasingly horrifying turnovers by San Antonio along with four quick team fouls allowed Chicago to push their advantage out to two touchdowns, including two alley-oops to the pouty Drummond, and the game to an unexpectedly dour end for the Spurs.

For the Bulls fan’s perspective, please visit Blog a Bull.

San Antonio continues its road trip in Toronto against Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby Wednesdsay night at 6:30 PM CDT.