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Signs of the Time

By Daniel Strickland on March 8, 2013.

San Antonio Spurs 101, Chicago Bulls 83
(48-14, 25-3 home)

50-16. The Spurs and the Bulls both finished last year’s strike-shortened season with the same 50-16 record. Both were best in their respective conferences. Fortune would favor neither team, however, as both missed making it to the NBA Finals.

We’ll never know how good that 2011-2012 Bulls team really was, or how far they might have gone, had it not been for the injury of Derrick Rose in the Bulls’ initial first round game against the Sixers. Despite the loss of their best player, the Bulls still took the Sixers to six games.

Despite playing without their best player this season, the Bulls look to make the playoffs as a 4, 5 or 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. And Derrick Rose may yet come back before the playoffs begin. Just imagine how good the Bulls would be if Rose were healthy.

So it was Wednesday night, as the Spurs, without their best player, hosted the Bulls, without their best player. Without Parker and Rose in their respective lineups, it was safe to assume that the outcome would depend on how well the rest of the teams’ starting units performed, and whether anyone in the second unit stepped up their game.

The Bulls struggled early, allowing the Spurs to score the first 8 points. After a 20 second timeout, Chicago re-grouped and proceeded to outscore the Spurs 17-8 behind Deng (8 points) and Belinelli (7 points). The Bulls beat the Spurs on the board, 13-12, but it seemed like more than that. By the end of the first, the Bulls led 23-22.

In the second quarter, the Bulls second unit stepped up. Marquis Teague hit three 3-pointers, Belinelli scored 7 more (14 total) and by halftime the Bulls led by 5, 52-47.

The second half was Los Spurs time.

Stifling defense held the Bulls to 16 points in the third and 15 points in the fourth.

Efficient, balanced play on offense produced 25 points for the Spurs in the third and 29 points in the fourth.

Six Spurs scored in the third, led by Green (7), Splitter and Diaw (5).

Seven Spurs scored in the fourth, led by Mills (8), Splitter (6) and Ginobili (5).

If the game had been played for 12 more minutes, the Spurs might have won by 30 instead of 18.

After two games without Tony Parker, a few random observations:

  • Cory Joseph has played surprisingly well as a starter, averaging 10 points, 5 assists and 2.5 steals per 36 minutes played. Pop looks as brilliant as ever for starting him instead of mucking with the rotations.
  • Manu Ginobili is getting his mojo back, in a big way, scoring 18 against the Bulls and 17 against the Pistons. But that’s not all – he’s been incredibly efficient and effective, averaging 26 points, 3.7 rebounds and 8.9 assists per 36 minutes played.
  • Patty Mills is stepping up a bit, but not as much as I’d like. 18 points, 1.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists per 36 minutes isn’t much better than Mills performance during the season up to now (16/2.9/2.9).
  • Parker’s absence hasn’t meant more minutes for Nando De Colo or Gary Neal. De Colo has played a combined 15 minutes in two games. Neal played 8.5 minutes against the Pistons and not at all against the Bulls.
  • Matt Bonner is still in the doghouse, where he belongs.
  • Nice hair cut, Tiago.

Are these signs of what the time without Tony Parker portend? We’ll have to wait and see.

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