The Bulls stepped into the United Center on Thursday night with the pressure building on their shoulders. They were on a three-game slide and were the owners of the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference.
Although, once the Bulls took to the court you wouldn’t have known that things had been going as downhill for them as they were this past week.
The Bulls came out of the gate on fire and at one point saw their lead on the Spurs climb to as high as 18 points. In fact, the Bulls never trailed during their showdown with the team from San Antonio.
Chicago got the one thing they had been sorely missing from their team all season: contributions from the bench. Doug McDermott saw his first action since Nov. 12th due to his battle with concussions and in his 26 minutes played he was a part of a Bulls bench that chipped in 26 points and 17 rebounds on the night.
Dwyane Wade added in 20 points and Rajon Rondo continued to impress this season, falling one assist shy of a triple-double. The one dim light was the performance of Jimmy Butler. He was unable to score until nearly the half way mark of the third. He ended the night with only 13 points on 4-14 shooting from the field. Butler’s 13 points ended his career-long streak of 15 straight games of 20 or more points.
The Bulls good game offensively should not overshadow the job that the Bulls did on the defensive end. The Bulls crashed the boards for 50 rebounds, which is a testament to their ranking as one of the top rebounding teams in the league. On top of that, the Bulls held the Spurs to only 5 free throw attempts in comparison to the 27 attempts of their own. That was just the third time in franchise history that the Bulls held opponents to 5 free throws or fewer.
Thursday night the Spurs could have tied the Golden State Warriors mark from last season of 14 straight road wins to begin a season. Even though the Bulls played well, the Spurs did the Spurs thing and almost completed the comeback with a nail-biting 4th quarter, but the Bulls had other ideas and were able to hold them off. With their 95-91 victory over the Spurs, they definitely showed themselves that one game makes a big difference in team’s confidence if only for one night.