NBA: Chicago’s Rose gives all-star show early, sends Spurs south

Posted Feb 18, 2011 by Lynn Herrmann
The Chicago Bulls played host to the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night at the United Center and showed why they will be a force in the playoffs, handling their visitors with relative ease in a pull-away victory, 109-99.
Derrick Rose driving to the basket
Derrick Rose driving to the basket
Keith Allison
Chicago’s Derrick Rose proved why he will be the starting point guard for the Eastern Conference in this week-end’s All-Star game, stifling any attempts the Spurs made at taking a lead in the game with a dizzying array of shots including bankers, floaters, twisting layups and even a line drive that clanked home, all leading to a game-high 42 points that left the Spurs ready for a break.
Of Rose, the Spurs Tim Duncan said: “He’s probably playing the best in the league right now,” MySA reports.
Playing their final game of this year’s Rodeo Road Trip and bringing with them a 6-2 record on that road trip, the Spurs league-best road record of 21-7 clashed with the Bulls Eastern Conference-best home record of 24-4 and something had to give.
Although the Bulls missed their first three shot attempts of the game, after a 12-all tie in the first quarter Chicago jumped out to a 10-point lead that set the Spurs on their heels for the rest of the night, forcing them to play catch-up ball.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich made no excuse after the game, but pointed out the team had just wrapped up a 17-day 9-game road trip.
“I have to consider that nine straight road games might make (players) lack a little bit of execution,” he said, according to MySA. “It’s not an excuse, but I think I have to understand that to some degree,” he added.
Even after the loss to the Bulls, San Antonio still owns the league’s best record at 46-10 and returns home from the grueling road trip with a respectable 6-3 record - both, records most teams in the NBA would love to have at this point - there remains the glaring fact the Spurs defense is not where it needs to be to make a serious dent in the playoff picture.
As Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has repeatedly told any who would listen, the Spurs are not the best team in the league, yet. Their three losses on the road trip prove that out.
By the time the Bulls had taken a 17-12 lead in the first quarter, the Spurs watched could only watch as Chicago connected on 8-of-11 field goal attempts, a 73 percent clip that would lower as the game went on, but for Spurs fans, it didn’t seem to lower by much.
Only once in the game did the Spurs make a defensive stop when it needed to, coming late in the game. The result was a Gary Neal 3-pointer that cut the Bulls lead to 73-68. Chicago’s Ronnie Brewer then answered with a slam dunk that was followed by a Taj Gibson slam dunk, forcing the Spurs to burn a timeout.
Moments after that timeout, Luol Deng buried a huge trey to put Chicago up, 90-78, and the Spurs folded under the Bulls intense pressure.
Until that hit-or-miss defense gels, the Spurs will have to be content with the league’s best record, the league’s best road record and thankful this year’s long Rodeo Road Trip is history.
Popovich now heads toward Los Angeles to coach the Western Conference All-Stars this week-end, including the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan. He and his coaching staff will, no doubt, find time to go over game film of the Bulls and make necessary adjustments before their regular season resumes next Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder and league-leading scorer Kevin Durant.