By Emily Allen, Staff Writer Project Spurs
It was a blast from the past-NBA style when former Spur Vinny Del Negro stepped onto the AT&T Center court Monday evening as head coach of the Chicago Bulls, in town to face his former coach Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs.
Even a touch of the flu couldn’t stop Derrick Rose, who led the Bulls (21-22) in a final rally over the Spurs (25-18) to win in San Antonio, 98-93. Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, George Hill, DeJuan Blair and Richard Jefferson started for the Spurs. Still battling plantar fasciitis, Chicago’s Joakim Noah wasn’t expected to play but ended up out on the court to help turn on the heat against San Antonio.
The two days’ rest seemed to have done the Spurs a world of good as they raged onto the court in the first quarter. In just under four minutes of play, Parker had contributed by assist or basket to each of the Spurs’ 15 points on the board. With 6:56 left on the clock, Hill’s basket gave San Antonio a 12-point lead, which quickly dwindled to only 3 as Chicago fought to eventually make a comeback to end the first 31-29. In the first quarter alone, the Bulls shot for 75%. Superb compared to the Spurs’ abysmal 55% shooting.
Early on, Richard Jefferson proved it was not his night with several missed baskets, the starter only able to score two points in the entire game. Chicago continued their red-hot shooting, grabbing the lead with a three-pointer early in the second quarter. The Bulls went on a 11-0 scoring drive ended by Ginobili’s basket with 8:25 left in the half.
Just when the Spurs looked like they could recover, the Bulls charged on to maintain the lead. Roger Mason Jr. was finally able to shoot a three-pointer in a 7-point Spurs streak that showed signs of life, but Chicago’s 70% shooting in the quarter prevented San Antonio from taking over. Spurs ended the half down by 2; 52-50. In the first half alone, San Antonio shot 21-of-49 FG and only 1-of-7 from the 3 point line.
Baskets by Hill, Duncan and Parker kept the Spurs in the game at the beginning of the second half, but Chicago struck again to regain a 7-point lead with just under 7 minutes left in the third quarter. Duncan, Parker and McDyess all scored again - each answered by another Bulls’ basket. Less than a minute on the clock, Mason and Ginobili shot three-pointers to give the Spurs the lead; 71-70 at the end of the third.
The scoring battle continued well into the fourth quarter as San Antonio realized it couldn’t catch a break with a short-lived lead. Chicago regained possession and a 3-point lead less than four minutes in. Hill reminded the Spurs why they want to keep him, scoring three of the Spurs’ four baskets in just over three minutes of play - the last basket giving San Antonio a two point lead again. Less than a minute later, Chicago had the game by the horns yet again as the Bulls consistently answered each of San Antonio’s attempts to tie the score.
After Ginobili’s two free throws tied the teams at 93, the courtside drama in the last minute of regulation became evident. With no timeout called, Duncan walked over to Chicago’s huddle to listen in, prompting an angry shove away from Noah - the ref stepped in to move Duncan, who made a valid point. If no timeout is called, why can’t an opposing team’s player listen in? Still seething from Duncan’s attempt, Noah decided to try it on the Spurs huddle - an eye for an eye… maybe.
Back on the court, Chicago refused to let San Antonio score, even possibly fouling Ginobili again - but with no foul called, commentator Sean Elliot said the referees essentially decided the game. Spurs lose another home game 98-93.
Parker led the team in scoring with 20 points, followed by Duncan with 15, while Ginobili and McDyess had 14 apiece. Blair and McDyess led in rebounds with 11 and 7 respectively. Parker led with 8 assists.
Former Spur-turned-analyst Sean Elliot put it best when he asked what was in the water at the opposing team’s San Antonio hotels. This is the Spurs’ first 3-consecutive loss home stand since the beginning of the 2008-2009 season. First it was the Jazz, then the Rockets and now the Bulls. If the Spurs want to see another ring at the end of the season, they need to step up their game ASAP… beginning with a little three-pointer practice session.
The Spurs have another chance to break their losing streak as they take on the Atlanta Hawks (29-14) at home on Wednesday night.