Bulls fall to Spurs on Christmas Day

It was another rout at the Alamo, or at least in the Alamo City, as the San Antonio Spurs Sunday spoiled the Bulls Christmas Day and defeated the Bulls 119-100.

The Bulls were stunned to start, falling behind by 20 points early in the first quarter, then fighting back to take the lead in the third quarter. But the Spurs closed the third quarter with an 18-5 run and steadily pulled away in the fourth quarter.

The Bulls fell to 14-16 with their sixth loss in their last seven games. The Spurs are 25-6.

The Bulls were led by Dwyane Wade with 24 points and Jimmy Butler with 19. Taj Gibson had 12 and Nikola Mirotic 11 off the bench. LaMarcus Aldridge had 33 for the Spurs and Kawhi Leonard added 25.

It was a tough Christmas Day assignment for the Bulls on national ABC-TV after the Bulls defeated the Spurs in the United Center earlier this month. The Spurs came out like they remembered with Aldridge having the quarter of his career with 20 points on nine of nine shooting. The Bulls got away with center Robin Lopez on the perimeter shooting Aldridge in Chicago. But Aldridge started looking for his shot, making four straight to open the game as the Spurs stunned the Bulls with a 17-2 lead and 28-8 before the Bulls began to get into the game.

With Wade and Mirotic finding the range and Jerian Grant adding a closing three, the Bulls got out of the first quarter trailing 36-25 despite the Spurs shooting 82.4 percent. The Spurs had an assist on each of their 14 baskets. But it was that late bench spurt that pushed the Bulls back into the game. Mirotic continued with a driving score and a three, Cristiano Felicio was tough on the boards and the Bulls slowed Aldridge with Gibson’s defense. The Bulls hit the Spurs with a 14-5 run midway through the second quarter with a pair of Rajon Rondo pullup jumpers and suddenly it was a contest with the Spurs hanging on to a 55-50 lead at halftime. The Bulls were more physical play held the Spurs to 39 percent second quarter shooting, but it was 23 bench points in the first half that rallied the Bulls back into the game. Aldridge had 25 in the first half, two fewer than the five Bulls starters.

The Spurs started the second half going at Lopez again, this time with Pau Gasol as the Bulls changed assignments. But even as Gasol scored a pair of baskets, this time the Bulls offense was sizzling, mostly inside with Gibson and Lopez. With a runner from Rondo coming out of a timeout with six minutes left, the Bulls tied the score and even took a lead moments later after a Butler three. The Spurs tied it up at 71 with 4:09 left in the third, but then the Bulls went cold. They paired three misses with three turnovers that enabled a Spurs reserve group led by Dewayne Dedmon operating inside to run off 11 straight points and take an 87-76 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Wade took it on himself to bring the Bulls back and respond to their fourth quarter problems with scores on the first three fourth quarter possessions. But the Spurs matched that with ball movement and a pair of threes from Danny Green to go ahead by 13 points with 10 minutes left. The Bulls got another inside boost from Felicio to pull within 98-89, but a pair of turnovers led to a Tony Parker three and 11-4 Spurs run that sent the Bulls into the big deficit. The Bulls return home Monday against the Pacers to finish the three games in four nights sequence.