Road crash leaves Spurs look­ing for an­swers

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in Chicago

It wasn’t that they fi­nally lost a road game and had their shot at a record dashed.

No, what both­ered the San An­to­nio Spurs was their dis­turbingly slow start.

Be­hind Dwyane Wade’s 20 points, the Chicago Bulls handed the Spurs their first road loss of the sea­son after a 13-0 start, hang­ing on for a 95-91 vic­tory on Thurs­day night.

San An­to­nio fell one win shy of match­ing the NBA’s best road start set by the Golden State War­riors last sea­son.

The Spurs cut an 18-point deficit mid­way through the third quar­ter to just four in the clos­ing min­utes, only to come up short.

“Streaks are a good sign when they’re pos­i­tive and they’re a bad sign when they’re neg­a­tive, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t give you any­thing else,” said San An­to­nio cen­ter Pau Ga­sol.

He’s more con­cerned that the Spurs keep strug­gling early in games.

It could be they’re still ad­just­ing after a busy off­sea­son that in­cluded the re­tire­ment of Tim Dun­can and the ad­di­tion of sev­eral new faces to com­ple­ment Kawhi Leonard and LaMar­cus Aldridge.

“Our op­po­nents have out­played us phys­i­cally and ex­e­cu­tion-wise in most first halves for most of the sea­son, but some­how we pull it to­gether in the sec­ond half and play harder and smarter than we did in the first half,” said coach Gregg Popovich.

“We got to within four, then some ex­e­cu­tion mis­takes. That’s the dis­ap­point­ing part, that we’re not a very con­sis­tent team and we haven’t learned as a group that the game is 48 min­utes.”

Leonard scored 24 points for San An­to­nio. Patty Mills added 16, hit­ting 4 of 6 3-poin­t­ers.

Ga­sol, a for­mer Bull, had 13 points and 10 re­bounds in his first game in Chicago since sign­ing with San An­to­nio in the sum­mer. The Spurs lost a road game for the first time since Ok­la­homa City knocked them out in the Western Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nals last sea­son.

Jimmy But­ler scored all of his 13 points for the Bulls in the sec­ond half. Ra­jon Rondo added 12 points, nine as­sists and 10 re­bounds as Chicago picked up the win after drop­ping three in a row and six of nine.

The Bulls have beaten two of the NBA’s best teams in the past week in the Spurs and de­fend­ing cham­pion Cleve­land.

“It’s a long sea­son,” Wade said. “We have time to fix it. We can play with good teams in this league, home or road, but we still have time to fix that.

“As long as we un­der­stand what we need to do, what­ever it is, we have a lot of games left to fix the prob­lem.”

The Spurs had won 14 straight reg­u­lar sea­son road games since Den­ver beat them on April 8. But after a big push down the stretch, they couldn’t sal­vage this one.

The Bulls led 65-47 mid­way through the third fol­low­ing a surge by But­ler, who scored seven in a 54-sec­ond span after miss­ing his first six shots. The Spurs jumped back into it in the clos­ing min­utes of the quar­ter, but it wasn’t enough.

RICK BOWMER / AP

Utah Jazz for­ward Joe In­gles puts the grab on Golden State War­riors’ Kevin Du­rant in the sec­ond half of Thurs­day’s game in Salt Lake City. The War­riors won 106-99.

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