Even as the deficit kept swelling on Saturday night, the Chicago Bulls maintained their resolve against the Portland Trail Blazers.
“It’s not about them running off,” the Bulls’ Ayo Dosunmu said. “It’s staying with it and staying consistent and keep coming, no matter how many times they score.”
After allowing 43 points in the second quarter, the Bulls yielded just 17 in the third en route to a 129-121 home win against Portland.
Chicago coach Billy Donovan hopes the commitment and consistency the Bulls showed in erasing a 17-point deficit can be a catalyst. Monday’s visit from the struggling San Antonio Spurs, who begin a nine-game road trip, offers a chance to find out.
“To me it was a positive step, because I think at times when we get into some of those runs that other teams go on, we can kind of get a little bit fragmented, or our offense can affect our defense,” Donovan said. “I thought the guys worked to try to really stay together and solve problems.”
In addition to dialing up their defense when they needed it, the Bulls shot 60 percent from the floor and had 32 assists on 48 made baskets.
Chicago’s “Big Three” set the tone as the team won for the third time in four games. Zach LaVine scored 36 points, DeMar DeRozan followed with 27 and Nikola Vucevic had a double-double of 23 points and 11 rebounds.
San Antonio enters on an eight-game losing streak, the team’s fourth skid this season of at least five games.
The Spurs have been idle since Friday’s 137-125 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, which capped an 0-4 homestand.
To San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, the 76ers’ ability to capitalize off his team’s 18 turnovers proved the deciding factor.
“Giving up 26 points off turnovers makes it impossible (to win),” Popovich said. “That was the most disappointing part of the game. Their grunt and their ability to play the game is super, but taking care of the basketball is pretty important and we didn’t do that tonight. That was the bad part of the game.”
Among the bright spots was rookie Malaki Branham, who scored a season-best 26 points to eclipse his previous high of 22 set two nights earlier.
What’s been the catalyst for Branham’s surge?
“I feel like me, just slowing down,” Branham said. “Just slowing down, picking my spots on the floor, and just doing what I know how to do.”
Popovich sees things similarly.
“Everything he’s doing: being confident, shooting, defense, getting more comfortable in situations,” Popovich said. “So, he’s doing fine.”
Host San Antonio edged Chicago 129-124 on Oct. 28 in the first meeting between the teams this season. Keldon Johnson and DeRozan scored 33 points to pace their respective teams on a night DeRozan surpassed 20,000 career points while playing against his former club.
Seven Spurs finished in double figures.
San Antonio has won four of the past five games between the teams. The Bulls won 120-109 on Feb. 14, 2022.
–Field Level Media