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A horrible fourth quarter doomed the Spurs against the Bulls in Rodeo Road Trip opener

After rallying back from a double-digit deficit to take a late third quarter lead, the Spurs completely bombed out in the final 13+ minutes of play.

San Antonio Spurs v Chicago Bulls Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

That was certainly one of the more frustrating Spurs losses in a season that has been unsurprisingly full of them. Even though the Chicago Bulls have been struggling of late, the Spurs headed into the House that Jordan Built shorthanded, on an eight-game losing streak, and staring the once beloved, now dreaded Rodeo Road Trip in the face. After 35 minutes, there was hope that they could start it off with a bang after actually rallying back from a double-digit deficit to take the lead, but they proceeded to play possibly their worst 13 minutes of basketball this season, getting outscored 49-21 the rest of the way for a 128-104 loss.

Both teams started hot, hitting their first four shots, but the Spurs took advantage of a little Bulls dry spell to take a 17-12 lead on the back of eight early points from Keldon Johnson. Unfortunately, Zach LaVine briefly heated up for 11 quick points (and I say briefly because he didn’t score again until late in the third quarter), and so did the rest of the Bulls as they exploded for a 16-2 run, mostly against the Spurs second unit, and took a double-digit lead, 39-28, after the first quarter.

But like always, this team never quits. After the poor end to the first, the Spurs bench opened the second quarter on a 9-2 run to get back within four, and that kicked off a series runs. The Bulls responded back with a 7-0 run of their own before the Spurs in turn got back within one on a 10-0 run. While they never took the lead, the mostly traded buckets from there, and the Bulls entered halftime up just 62-59. Johnson led both teams with 17 points at halftime.

Five straight points for Nikola Vucevic to open the third quarter forced a Gregg Popovich timeout, but soon another 9-2 Spurs run helped them tie things back up at 74 apiece midway through the quarter. A pair of Zach Collins free throws gave the Spurs their first lead since the first quarter, and they got up by as much as four at 83-79. Unfortunately, that would end up being the high point of the game, as a series of Spurs errors (and some favorable officiating) triggered an 11-3 Bulls run to close the quarter and give them a 90-85 lead, with the last five coming from DeMar DeRozan after he’d had a quiet game against his former club up to that point.

The Bulls scored the first four points of the fourth quarter before a Doug McDermott three briefly stopped the bleeding, but Chicago was now fully engaged with the crowd behind them, seemingly able to draw a foul whenever they didn’t score while the Spurs couldn’t by anything — be it a bucket or a foul. Even when the Spurs finally got a call to go their way, it was overturned on a challenge. Andre Drummond — who for the second time this season had a season-high game against the Spurs, this time with 21 points and 15 rebounds — had four monster dunks as the helpless Spurs looked on, and the arena was rocking. The lead was quickly stretched out to 20 before the Spurs got their second field goal of the quarter with 6 minutes left, and Pop emptied his bench.

Game Notes

  • Devin Vassell, Jeremy Sochan and Tre Jones all being with the team for the first leg of the Rodeo Road Trip is a good sign that they could return any day now. Sochan and Jones have been looked at on a day-to-day basis, and while Pop has said that he doesn’t expect to see Vassell back until after the All-Star break, that fact that he’s ready for extended travel and near-complete practice participation means he isn’t far away.
  • While both teams were pretty hot during the first half, with the Spurs shooting 50 percent even and the Bulls 52.1 percent, most of that came from points in the paint, with the Spurs scoring 38 to the Bulls 34. At the other end of the spectrum, both teams were cold from outside, combining to hit 7-29 from three by halftime and 14-48 for the game. This game very much had an old-school fee to it — minus the defense.
  • I preface this by saying the Spurs bombed out in the final 13 minutes all on their own, but as the Bulls were getting frustrated late in the third quarter and the crowd was getting jittery, it almost felt like they decided they were going to force the refs to inject themselves into the game after they had mostly been letting both teams play. They started creating contact to get to the line and stifle the Spurs’ momentum, and in the fourth quarter the Spurs couldn’t avoid fouling on either end. Credit to the Bulls for playing to their strengths, and the Spurs’ youth showed by getting frustrated in return and being unable to handle the pressure, but I just wish it didn’t feel like the refs also played a role in that game-deciding stretch.

Play of the Game

This was the high point of the game. While there isn’t anything particularly special about this Stanley Johnson and-one, it provided a glimmer of hope that the Spurs just might be capable of pulling off their first double-digit rally this season.

Up next: Wednesday at Toronto Raptors

6:30 PM CT on Bally Sports SW-SA