CHICAGO — San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich refused to hide his disgust after one of his team’s worst efforts of the season.
“I’d want my money back,” Popovich said.
The Chicago Bulls are not offering refunds.
Guard Derrick Rose scored a game-high 22 points, and the Bulls cruised to a 104-81 win against San Antonio on Thursday night.
Forward Jimmy Butler added 17 points for the Bulls (28-16), who won for only the third time in their past nine games. Several hours after he was named as Eastern Conference starter in the NBA All-Star Game, forward Pau Gasol tallied 12 points and 17 rebounds for his 25th double-double of the season.
“It’s a great day,” Gasol said. “We came out with the right attitude. We set the tone defensively. We were getting to loose balls. We were rebounding the ball well. We were active on the weak side. We were communicating better. All of those things make such a big difference, and tonight we did it from the beginning to the end.”
San Antonio shot 37.0 percent from the field to spoil a four-game winning streak. Forward Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs (27-17) with 16 points, all of which came in the first half, and guard Patty Mills added 12 points off the bench.
Leonard was the only player in the Spurs’ starting five to crack double digits in scoring. The other four starters — guard Tony Parker, guard Danny Green, forward Tim Duncan and center Tiago Splitter — combined for 27 points on 11-for-27 shooting while struggling defensively.
Popovich described his starters’ effort as “embarrassing.”
“I saw a laissez faire, entitled attitude, like everything will be fine,” Popovich said. “I thought, as a group, they were mentally and physically humiliated.
“I thought the second group was great. I loved watching them play. A lot less talent, but a lot more commitment.”
A dominant start to the second half helped the Bulls to build a 77-60 lead entering the fourth quarter. Gasol shook Duncan by faking left and spinning right for a turnaround jump shot, and Rose drove the baseline for an up-and-under layup as part of a 27-8 run to open the half.
Chicago took a 46-40 at halftime lead thanks in large part to a series of aggressive drives by Rose, who finished with 15 points and four assists at the break. Rose keyed a 16-5 run to start the second quarter with a twisting, left-handed finger roll underneath Green’s outstretched arm.
Rose scored at least 18 points in each of his past seven games. He challenged his teammates to pick up their intensity earlier this week after back-to-back losses against Atlanta and Cleveland.
“I said what I had to say,” Rose said. “I think my teammates took it to heart.”
Rose said outsiders were wrong to criticize coach Tom Thibodeau, whose hard-driving style led to reports that players had started to tune out his message.
“The way that we’ve been playing doesn’t have anything to do with ‘Thibs,'” Rose said. “It’s up to the players to get it done.”
Leonard kept San Antonio within reach by scoring 14 of the Spurs’ 18 points in the second quarter. He connected on 5 of 8 shots, including a 3-pointer over Bulls forward Tony Snell, while his teammates combined to shoot 2-for-11 from the field.
San Antonio led 22-21 after a back-and-forth first quarter that featured four lead changes. Mills provided a spark off the Spurs’ bench with six points in the final two minutes of the quarter.
“We just couldn’t get our roll going,” said Duncan, who finished with six points. “They just played better than us. We were playing too much of a consistent team out there to keep up.”
Should the Spurs feel embarrassed, as Popovich suggested?
“No, not embarrassed,” Duncan said. “We just lost a game tonight.”
NOTES: Bulls F/C Pau Gasol was named as an Eastern Conference starter for the NBA All-Star Game. Gasol, 34, will be making his fifth All-Star appearance and his first since 2011. … Spurs G Marco Belinelli missed his seventh straight game because of a mild strain in his left groin. … Bulls C Joakim Noah sat out for the third consecutive game because of an injured right ankle. Noah, 29, has missed 10 games this season because of injuries and illness. … Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he would try to keep his players fresh in the season’s second half. “We’ll try to keep everybody at 30 (minutes) or under, if we can. Nothing will change from what we’ve done in the past.” … Bulls F Mike Dunleavy remained out because of a right ankle injury.
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