Bulls-Spurs: Notes From Monday’s Win in Return Home


There’s still 67 games left in the season, but the Chicago Bulls continue to not make any kind of sense after beating a San Antonio Spurs team that was 14-3 coming into Monday night’s meeting.

The Chicago Bulls have one healthy, “true” point guard on their roster (who has had a long history of injuries). The star of the team is playing with a sore heel. Their offensive rating ranks 28th out of the 30 NBA franchises.

And yet, the Bulls split a difficult four-game Circus Trip and defeated a San Antonio Spurs team on Monday night who had won five games in a row and 14 of their first 17 games of the season.

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Pau Gasol led the way with 18 points and a key block on LaMarcus Aldridge late, Joakim Noah played like the All-NBA selection he was two seasons ago, and the Bulls defeated the Spurs, 92-89.

“He was looking for his shot, making great moves,”Derrick Rose said after Monday’s win. “His energy was there. He was rebounding, pushing the ball, making the right passes.”

Noah had his best game to date this season on Monday night. The former MVP vote-getter scored eight points on 4-of-6 shooting, grabbed 11 rebounds (the fourth time he’s reached double digits in rebounds this season) and dished out seven assists.

The former defensive player of the year was in such a groove, he decided to take Tim Duncan one-on-one towards the basket and come out on top during a possession in the second half.

“He gets everybody hyped,” Jimmy Butler said after the game. “Just having him make plays for us is big. He got his swag back. You can see the way he’s walking around back there in the hot tub/cold tub. He’s smiling. His spirits are high. That’s the Jo that we need.”

He’s not wrong. Noah is a big reason why the Bulls have the second-best field goal percentage guarding from 0-3 feet so far this season. His energy was noticed more on the offensive end, but having him energized carried over the other end of the floor.

Along with Noah’s contributions last night, there were some other notables from the fun finish on Monday night. Here’s a few notes from Monday’s game, starting with the conclusion of the game itself.

The Bulls seal a game late with defense

Tom Thibodeau would be quite proud of this stop to win the game. The Bulls led by three with 10 seconds left on Monday.

Here’s how they sealed their ninth win of the season:

Two things stick out here:

  1. Jimmy Butler’s defense on Kawhi Leonard was nothing short of superb. Leonard led all scorers with 25 points, so for Butler to make this kind of stop in the final seconds was fantastic.
  2. Derrick Rose’s legs aren’t dead and gone yet. The former MVP made a heck of play to get a piece of Tony Parker’s last gasp. Rose’s game on Monday wasn’t great, missing 12 of his 17 shot attempts on the other end during the win, but he made a play late when he had to make one.

He doesn’t take as many as some, but Doug McDermott doesn’t miss many

In 14 games this season, Doug McDermott is shooting 46.8 percent from three-point range (23-for-49). That’s not terrible.

McDermott shot 5-of-12 on the night, but his ability to move without the basketball is a pleasant sight to see. Tony Snell actually contributed in a positive way on Monday, but McDermott played a shade over 30 minutes on Monday, while Snell only played over 23 minutes.

The reason why McDermott was a bullet point (shout-out to the (D)Roses and Thorns guys) was because of the play design during the triple made up above.

Since when do the Bulls run an “elevator doors” play for a good shooter and attempt to recreate the Golden State Warriors’ unstoppable offense?

The overall numbers offensively aren’t great, but this one was from Monday

From K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

"The Bulls placed five players in double figures and seven players scored at least eight points. Rose had six assists as the Bulls assisted on 25 of 37 field goals. The halfcourt offense still lacks pop too often. But at least the Bulls are trying to share the ball."

It’s still a work-in-progress for the Bulls on offense. But, they did a good job sharing the ball on Monday against a Spurs defense that’s one of the best in the NBA. The good thing from Monday’s win was that it wasn’t just one guy — say, Jimmy Butler against Phoenix — that carried the load against a great team. Monday was a good team win against another Western Conference power.

Final notes/thoughts

  • Before Monday’s game, Fred Hoiberg announced that Mike Dunleavy has had a “setback” during his recovery from offseason back surgery in September and will be held from on-court activities for two weeks. This past Friday marked nine weeks in the previously announced “8-to 10-week recovery period” for Dunleavy. (At least that could mean more Dunleavy suits from the 60’s and 70’s, right?)
  • Jimmy Butler is also banged up, but won’t miss any time with a sore heel that he injured on Nov. 20 against Golden State. “I don’t think anybody cares that I’m injured. Nobody feels sorry for me. So I got to play,” Butler said.

Next: Joakim Noah Must Embrace Bench Role for Bulls to Succeed

The Bulls are 10-5 this season. Does it make any sense that this team is winning with defense instead of a new-look offense? To a degree, yes … but it doesn’t change the fact that the Bulls are as confusing as any team in the league.

This team has never had a problem getting up for big games and Monday night was no different. On top of that, the Bulls are actually starting to roll a bit as the month of December arrives, winning six of their last eight games.

Monday started a four-game homestand for the Bulls. From now until the end of December, the Bulls only leave Chicago for four games. With teams like Cleveland, Indiana and Miami playing well early on, this long stretch of home games for the Bulls could be exactly what they needed to stay in the Eastern Conference hunt.