One of the NBA's premier matchups was on store Tuesday at the United Center. The Chicago Bulls went up against Western Conference powerhouse, the San Antonio Spurs. In an eventful back and forth game, the Bulls came out victorious 92-89 to end the Spurs five-game winning streak and drop them to 14-4 on the season.
The Bulls were undermanned with Kirk Hinrich, Aaron Brooks and Mike Dunleavy missing in action. After offseason back surgery, Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy was dealt a blow in his recovery time and is planning to see two specialists this week. He initially was expected to miss 8-to-10 weeks. The return of the veteran will give the Bulls an added three-point threat after he averaged 9.4 points and shot 40.7 percent from three-point range in 63 games last season.
With less depth, it took the team an all around effort to come out victorious against Gregg Popovich's battle tested squad. Bulls big man Pau Gasol noted, "Everyone contributed tonight in a positive way... Jo was outstanding and almost had a triple double off the bench with his energy, making plays offensively as well as defensively. Everyone really contributed and it was good to see."
Gasol had an impressive double-double, registering 18 points, 13 rebounds, and three key blocks in the game. Bulls guard Jimmy Butler had the matchup of the night going up against one of the leagues best two-way players in Kawhi Leonard. Butler scored 14 points while Leonard scored 25 points but shot a pedestrian 9-of-21 from the field. LaMarcus Aldridge had a big game going 10-of-18 from the field with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Bulls reserve Joakim Noah had a standout game scoring eight points, 11 rebounds, and seven big assists. Reserve Doug McDermott added an extra dimension for the Bulls offense by chipping in 12 points with 30 minutes of action.
Coach Fred Hoiberg stated, "It was one of those nights where everybody that stepped out on the floor not only contributed but contributed in a big way." It seemed like every player stepped up and added something in the game, helping the Bulls get the slight edge over the Spurs.
Chicago came out of the gates and played well on both sides of the ball, highlighted by a Danny Green turnover that led to a nice pass from Butler to a driving Derrick Rose on the fast break, giving the Bulls a 13-12 lead. Things remained close after the Spurs were up at the first quarter intermission.
At the 5:42 mark in the second, Spurs legend Tim Duncan dished a great pass to Tony Parker for the layup to go up 34-32. The Bulls kept a slight advantage going into half with a one point lead, 49-48.
The Spurs stayed down early in the third, but Leonard showed off his moves spinning in the post past Butler to cut the deficit to three. The Spurs regained the lead later in the third, but Butler was determined as he got a big steal and slam dunk to get the Bulls closer at 67-64.
With two minutes left in the fourth, things became extremely close as Duncan delivered an elegant floater to tie the game up at 89. Ugly basketball was played in the last four minutes as both team imposed their will on the defensive end. With one minute to play, Gasol came through with a huge rejection against Aldridge that kept the game tied.
The Bulls came up big after three made free throws to go up 92-89. Butler displayed rock solid defense on Leonard to draw the missed shot, followed up by an airball from Parker with seconds remaining to give Chicago the emphatic victory.
After the loss the Spurs go on to host the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. The 10-5 Bulls go on to host the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night.