Heading into this season, many questioned if the Chicago Bulls would be a good enough team defensively to be a contender. Overall, the Bulls have been average at best. They currently rank 17th in team defensive rating. But they have been much worse without Alex Caruso, who is far and wide the team's best defender. The Bulls started strong against the Spurs on Friday night but ultimately couldn't close out the game.
The Bulls' defense certainly struggled with Caruso missing his fourth straight game after fracturing his wrist two weeks ago. The Spurs scored 131 points while shooting 53% from the field and 43% from the three-point line. That's the third-most points the Bulls have given up all season.
The Bulls' three core players of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic all clicked on the offensive side of the ball, allowing Chicago to keep pace with San Antonio throughout the first half.
DeRozan led all scorers with 32 points as he continues to show why he was voted an Eastern Conference All-Star starter. LaVine and Vucevic added 30 and 18 points, respectively.
But it was simply not enough as the Bulls have now lost two of the last three games against teams under .500 and six of the last seven games away from the United Center.
Second Half Struggles
The Bulls led by five points at halftime but the Spurs came out of the break red-hot. San Antonio went on a 14-4 run mainly led by Dejounte Murray, who scored seven of those points.
It was really a Murray and Jakob Poeltl show as the pair effectively and efficiently used the pick-and-roll. The Spurs consistently used that pick-and-roll the whole night and the Bulls simply could not respond.
But the major difference came from the three-point line. The disparity was even larger when looking at second-half numbers. The Bulls only shot 24% from beyond the arc during the second half. The Spurs shot a whopping 53%.
What’s On Tap Next?
The Bulls, sitting loosely as the second seed in the Eastern Conference with a 30-18 record, head back home for a Sunday afternoon game against the Portland Trail Blazers, another sub-.500 team. Portland sports a 21-28 record. Tip-off is at 2:30 PM CST and the game will air on NBC Sports Chicago.
Be sure to check out the Bulls On Tap podcast for further postgame reaction as well as Chicago basketball analysis and commentary all season.