Road crash leaves Spurs looking for answers
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.
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.