Derrick Rose scores 22 as struggling Bulls blow out Spurs
CHICAGO — Derrick Rose drove hard to the rim. The defense was at its stifling, suffocating best.
More than anything, the swagger was back and so were the Bulls.
Rose scored 22 points and struggling Chicago beat the San Antonio Spurs 104-81 on Thursday night.
The Bulls came away with a much-needed win after dropping six of eight and handed the defending champions their most lopsided loss of the season.
The Central division leaders broke this one open in the third quarter, outscoring the Spurs 31-20, and snapped San Antonio’s four-game win streak.
“It shows what we’re capable of doing,” All-Star Pau Gasol said.
Rose, who called out his team after Monday’s loss at Cleveland, led six Bulls in double figures.
He was aggressive going to the rim, hitting 9 of 16 shots. Rose played just 45 seconds in the fourth quarter because of some stiffness and the lopsided score, but he expects to suit up at Dallas on Friday.
Gasol added 12 points and 17 rebounds after being voted to his fifth All-Star game and first as a starter.
Jimmy Butler scored 17 on just nine shots. Taj Gibson added 15 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. Aaron Brooks scored 15, and the Bulls snapped a three-game home losing streak.
After giving up at least 102 points in six of the previous eight games, Chicago held San Antonio to 37 percent shooting. The Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard scored all of his team-leading 16 points in the first half.
“We just played embarrassing basketball,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “I want my money back.”
Rose had it going right from the start with 15 points the first half, and Chicago headed to the locker room with a 46-40 lead that was about to get much bigger.
Tony Snell converted a three-point play with 17.3 seconds left in the second quarter to start a 14-2 Bulls run that made it 57-42 early in the third. The Bulls stayed in control the rest of the way, putting aside the chaos for at least one night.
The recent struggles combined with Rose’s criticism and a meeting between the players and coach Tom Thibodeau painted an ugly picture for a team that was rolling along before the recent slide.
There is speculation that Thibodeau’s job is in jeopardy and that he is losing the locker room. It sure seemed like there was plenty of outside noise even if he shot down that idea, asking, “What noise?”
“As I told you yesterday, I could care less, couldn’t care less, and I don’t think our team couldn’t care less about that stuff,” he said.
Popovich dismissed the idea of Thibodeau losing the team before the game and did it again afterward.
“That’s baloney,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Popovich was less than pumped to answer a question about “Deflategate” before the game. He turned his head side to side and asked, “Are you on this planet? Is this an NBA game tonight?”
Spurs: G Danny Green paid tribute to late ESPN sportscaster and fellow North Carolina product Stuart Scott on Thursday. He had “Stu” emblazoned on his left sneaker and “booyah” on his right one. “He was great at it and he brought a different kind of culture to the sports world,” said Green, who wasn’t close to Scott but crossed paths with him over the years. “He was more of how it really is, I guess, it’s hard to really explain. He’s the reason why I studied what I studied in school. I’ve got a communications degree. The media area, that’s something I wanted to do growing up if the basketball thing didn’t work out for me. He was somebody I looked up to from the day I met him.”
Bulls: C Joakim Noah missed his fourth straight game and F Mike Dunleavy Jr., his 11th in a row. Both have injured right ankles. Thibodeau said Noah has looked “very good” practicing on a limited basis the past two days and that Dunleavy is “very, very close” to returning.
Spurs: Host Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.
Bulls: Visit Dallas on Friday.
*Photo courtesy of Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images