Meet the new Chicago Bulls: unlikely road warriors.
Derrick Rose(notes) overcame feeling ill to score 27 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, and the Bulls impressively beat another winning Western Conference team during their seven-game road swing with a 98-93 victory over the Spurs on Monday night.
Last week it was at Phoenix, then in Houston. Put it another way: the Bulls, now 7-15 on the road, have won just one fewer road game in the last four days that they did in their first three months of the season.
“We’re not as healthy as we’d like to be, but we’re finding a way,” Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said.
Chicago now finishes up its Western Conference road trip against Oklahoma City on Wednesday and New Orleans on Friday. Both teams also have winning records, but the surging Bulls aren’t playing afraid of anyone lately.
Chicago has won 11 of 16 after starting the season 10-17. With a win against the Thunder, the Bulls (21-22) can climb back to .500.
The Spurs, meanwhile, are spiraling.
San Antonio lost its third straight at home, already squandering half of its six-game homestand before hitting the road for virtually the entire month of February. The Spurs have traditionally used their annual “Rodeo Road Trip” to work out the kinks—and at this rate, there is plenty to fix.
“We have a team that can win games, especially like the one tonight, but we just need to find way to get it done,” Spurs forward Tim Duncan(notes) said. “Defensively we aren’t as good as we want to be.”
Chicago entered the game as the fourth-worst shooting team in the NBA. The Bulls began their road trip by losing at Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers, but just like Chicago did wins over the Suns and Rockets, it shot better than 50 percent from the field.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has admonished his defense of late, and this won’t help. The Bulls hit 18 of their first 23 shots and stayed above 70 percent shooting for most of the first half.
“Hopefully it means we’re growing a little bit,” Del Negro said. “I’m pleased with our defense; we got some stops and put ‘em down.”
Deng swatted his layup back the way Ginobili came with Spurs trailing 95-93 and 32.8 seconds left. Then down by three with 5.9 seconds left, the Spurs called Ginobili’s number again but his layup fell short.
Rose didn’t practice with the Bulls earlier Monday because of flulike symptoms that Del Negro described as everything from congestion to “not feeling good.” But Rose played just fine hours later—even if he didn’t look like it.
Rose shot 13 of 23 from the floor and hit a pull-up jumper with 56.9 seconds left to put the Bulls ahead 93-91. But Rose clearly wasn’t feeling well.
Del Negro said at one point, Rose asked him to “give me a couple more minutes.” Rose wasn’t pale, Del Negro said, but he had his hands on his knees.
Rose left without speaking to reporters.
In his absence, Noah stated the obvious.
“I’m not gonna lie: D-Rose is playing at a really high level,” he said.
NOTES: Newly acquired Bulls G Devin Brown(notes) was expected to join the team in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. The Bulls obtained Brown in a trade with New Orleans before the game, giving up C Aaron Gray(notes). …The Spurs are on their third three-game slide of the season.