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San Antonio vs Chicago, Final Score: Spurs hang tough, but can’t catch the Bulls 116-122

The Spurs lacked firepower without Wembanyama in the lineup, but Tre Jones and Keldon Johnson almost pulled out a win against the hot-shooting Bulls

Chicago Bulls v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Darren Carroll/NBAE via Getty Images

Tre Jones kept the Spurs in the contest for most of the game by playing the game of his life with 30 points, and Keldon Johnson caught fire in the third quarter to bring the Spurs to the brink of victory with just over a minute left. Unfortunately, a missed free throw from Devin Vassell in the final minute kept the Silver and Black from tying it up, and the Spurs narrowly missed out on their first three-game winning streak of the season.

The story of the game was set before the matchup even started because the team staff did not want Victor Wembanyama to play two nights in a row. The Spurs were also missing Zach Collins, so a big man rotation of Mamukelashvili and Barlow was overmatched by the Bulls duo of Vucevic and Drummond, who dominated San Antonio inside. Despite missing their star rookie, the Spurs played really hard tonight but couldn’t overcome the experience of the Bulls, and failed to execute down in the final minutes. It’s a real disappointment in a season filled with them, but Victor will be back on Monday playing the Hawks in Atlanta, and the main encouraging sign tonight was the improved play of Tre Jones who can become even more valuable if he can continue to hit outside shots like he did in tonight’s contest.

Observations

  • By some weird scheduling quirk, this game was played at the same time as an NFL playoff game, which is annoyingly only available on a certain streaming app. Makes it a hassle to switch back and forth and watch both on the same device.
  • It’s so great to watch games with Bill Land and Sean Elliott. The Spurs have had a lot of national broadcasts this season, and it always makes me appreciate the local team even more. They’re a great combination of warmth and basketball knowledge.
  • The perfect NBA hair would be the average of Alex Caruso and Coby White.
  • Tre Jones hit his first four three-point shots, which means to me that sometimes dreams do come true. With Chicago dominating early, Jones was the main reason why the Bulls didn’t put the game out of reach, and instrumental in getting the Spurs back into the game in the second quarter.
  • The Chicago team’s shooting was really hot to start the game, which overshadowed a good start from the Silver and Black, who were playing the right way, but weren’t hitting as many shots.
  • When Mamukelashvili is your backup center, you might have a depth problem. Drummond ate him up in the paint. He did better against Vucevic, but still was overmatched. He can help the Spurs with his shooting, but his defense is a problem.
  • The Bulls led by 12 after one quarter 35-23, using their superior shooting and defensive activity to frustrate the Spurs early.
  • It’s really different to watch the Spurs without Wembanyama. The opponent just takes a whole lot of shots they wouldn’t even attempt with Victor in the game, and on the other end of the court, they can guard players a lot more aggressively. He makes every teammate on the floor look better when he’s on the floor.
  • The Bulls led 63-55 at the half, with the Spurs slowly climbing back into the game with Jones leading the way with 22 points in the first half.
  • Is there a better one-on-one player in the NBA than DeMar DeRozan? He just has so many moves that once he gets in the mid range with one defender, it’s like an automatic bucket.
  • The Spurs really missed Doug McDermott’s shooting in this game, but Tre did a good imitation for much of the game.
  • The Spurs came out of the locker room with determination and cut the lead to three points with Jeremy Sochan baiting Caruso into a tech, but the Bulls erased that by turning up the defense and going on a 13-0 run of their own. Before you knew it, the Spurs were down by 18, just when you thought they were getting back into the game.
  • The Spurs don’t always play well, but they always play hard. They outscored the Bulls by 18 in the second half of the third quarter to tie it up at 94 each after three.
  • I always believed in Blake Wesley. I pity those who didn’t. His box score didn’t look impressive tonight, but his play was important as the Spurs made their comeback in the third quarter.
  • Alex Caruso is the kind of player you hate if he’s on the opposing team, but love if he’s on yours. He just plays with so much passion and solid fundamentals.

The Spurs start a five-game road trip on Monday night, where they’ll play the Hawks with possible trade target Dejounte Murray and Trae Young.