San Antonio Spurs News

Spurs break away from Bulls, 87-77: Recap, highlights and more

By Rob Wolkenbrod
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 21: Pau Gasol #16 of the San Antonio Spurs attempts a shot over Paul Zipser #16 of the Chicago Bulls in the first quarter at the United Center on October 21, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 21: Pau Gasol #16 of the San Antonio Spurs attempts a shot over Paul Zipser #16 of the Chicago Bulls in the first quarter at the United Center on October 21, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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The San Antonio Spurs were in a tight game with the Chicago Bulls, but the score widened as the game progressed.

The San Antonio Spurs stepped into their second game of the season on Saturday night. They played the Chicago Bulls, a team projected to be one of the worst in the NBA. Did that lead to an easy evening for the Spurs?

77. 24. . 87. 29

The start of the game felt like déjà vu. It was about finding LaMarcus Aldridge a rhythm. The ball went into his hands throughout the first quarter and saw him get a quick 6 points. While a positive, the Spurs struggled to get anyone going, at least early on. It led to Aldridge getting double-teamed.

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Aside from the five-time All-Star, the Spurs struggled to get anyone going on offense, at least in the first half. The team failed to hit a 3-pointer, sticking to paint work and mid-range shots. Much of this didn’t work, either. Chicago wasn’t playing great and the Spurs still got off shots, but nothing fell.

We had the first Bryn Forbes sighting of the season. He didn’t play in the season opener but checked in when there were about two minutes remaining in the first quarter, scoring a quick bucket. Head coach Gregg Popovich let him start the second, too. The second-year pro received 17 minutes and scored 4 points.

On the scoreboard, it took midway through the third quarter for the Spurs to pull away. Aldridge and Rudy Gay took off and found easy mid-range shots and drives to the basket, respectively, almost all of which resulted in points. Unselfish play ruled this period, as well, a staple of this team’s play for years. No longer were they floating around the level of Chicago.

Rudy to Patty to LA pic.twitter.com/Tk7VIIXeRj

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) October 22, 2017

By the fourth quarter, San Antonio stayed up by double digits. There wasn’t much needed to put away the Bulls, other than a few shots hit by Gay and Danny Green.

On the Bulls side, Lauri Markkanen looked impressive. He gave Pau Gasol fits throughout the night, using his fresher legs to get around the 37-year-old and find his way to the rim. It’s a problem for not just Saturday night but the rest of the season. Once the Spurs start facing teams that consistently roll out smaller, more athletic lineups, Gasol will struggle to find the court.

There was a milestone moment, one the Spurs won’t like to be part of: Robin Lopez’s first career 3-pointer. Yeah.

? @rolopez42 connects for his first ever three-pointer pic.twitter.com/NDu6M3kRkn

— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) October 22, 2017

Game notes

  • Davis Bertans didn’t play on Saturday after seeing just 4 minutes in the season opener. As long as Gay stays as the backup power forward and Popovich rolls out smaller lineups, Bertans will struggle to find consistent minutes.
  • Forbes jumping from 0 to 17 minutes was interesting. He received playing time against the younger, more athletic Bulls that were giving some Spurs lineups fits.
  • While Forbes’ minutes rose, Gasol’s minutes declined. He dropped from 29 to 20. Markannen, as noted, gave him problems, along with Robin Lopez. The Spaniard still had 10 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, but his inability to keep up with the quicker forwards was glaring. It will be a problem for the rest of the season.
  • Another dominant performance from Aldridge. He scored 28 points and 10 rebounds, making it back-to-back double-double’s. A great sign for him while Kawhi Leonard rehabs.
  • The Spurs badly need a second scorer, which is where Leonard comes in. He’ll slide in as the top guy, while Aldridge becomes a terrific No. 2. There were multiple scoring droughts on Saturday because nobody, other than Aldridge, could develop a rhythm. The offense performed well when he was in, and struggled when rested.

Must Read: 25 greatest players in Spurs history

San Antonio returns on Monday, Oct. 23 to face the Toronto Raptors at 8:30 p.m. ET.

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