The Chicago Bulls are hoping they shook off their recent slump with a convincing win, but keeping the momentum alive won’t be easy against one of the league’s best defenses.
The Bulls look to build off their most-lopsided win of the season and end their recent struggles against the San Antonio Spurs when the teams meet on Monday at the United Center.
“Obviously, we were very good tonight,” coach Scott Skiles said. “I thought we had a lot of energy. Our defense was outstanding. We moved the ball well. We shot the ball well.”
The Bulls (21-17) had lost five of their previous six games, double-digit leads in four of those defeats.
“The focus was there for 48 minutes tonight. Everybody was in the game and did a good job,” said Kirk Hinrich, who had 20 points and eight assists. “It was the kind of team effort that we need. We need to string a few together and build on this win as a standard of how we have to play.”
Chicago managed its decisive win despite playing without two regular starters. Andres Nocioni served a one-game league suspension for a Thursday incident where he elbowed New Jersey center Mikki Moore, and Ben Wallace sat out with a sore back and is listed as day-to-day.
Reserve forward Malik Allen also missed the game due to a strained left calf.
The injuries forced Gordon, normally the team’s sixth man, to make only his seventh start of the season.
“Any time you have somebody out, guys focus and everyone has to step up and fill the void,” Hinrich said.
If recent history is any indication, Monday’s game might not be as easy for the Bulls. Chicago has dropped 14 of its last 16 overall meetings with San Antonio (27-11), and five straight home games in the series.
The Bulls have not defeated the Spurs in Chicago since a 105-104 victory on Dec. 28, 2000. The Spurs won the only other meeting between the teams this season, 100-83 victory in San Antonio on Nov. 17.
The Spurs beat Washington 93-80 on Saturday for their fourth straight victory, one shy of their season high. The four-game winning streak is the fifth of at least that length this season for San Antonio, which has won five in a row twice.
The Spurs allowed the Wizards to shoot just 31 percent from the field and held Washington star Gilbert Arenas to 17 points, well below his 29.7 average.
“I think for the last two or three weeks we’ve become the defensive team, or we’re on the road to becoming the defensive team we’ve been the last six or eight years,” said coach Gregg Popovich, whose team ranks among the best in the league with just 90.3 points allowed per game.
Manu Ginobili led the Spurs with 19 points, while Tim Duncan added 18 and 11 rebounds. Duncan is averaging 20.8 points and 12.5 boards in 17 career games against the Bulls, with San Antonio going 13-4 in those matchups.