Gasol’s 21 leads short-handed Spurs by Bulls, 133-94
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The Spurs normally rely on their depth to get through the rigors of a lengthy regular season, but their leaning on their reserves earlier than usual after multiple injuries.
No more so than Saturday night, when San Antonio was without a third of its roster.
Pau Gasol had 21 points and 10 rebounds and the short-handed Spurs beat the Chicago Bulls 133-94, setting a season-high in points despite missing six players.
“I just loved it, I liked it a lot,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said playfully when asked about his young talent. “We had a lot of guys that played well tonight. Real big different overall attitude as far as aggressiveness and moving the basketball and communicating and not taking anything for granted like we did the game before.”
Dejounte Murray added 17 points and fellow second-year player Davis Bertans had 16 points in 18 minutes for San Antonio.
Chicago lost rookie forward Lauri Markkanen to a sprained left ankle late in the first half. The severity of the injury is unknown, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said.
The Spurs were without three starters and two key reserves. In addition to Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, who have yet to play this season due to quadriceps injuries, San Antonio was also without Danny Green. Manu Ginobili rested on the second night of a back-to-back. The Spurs still had the depth to hand the rebuilding Bulls their fourth straight loss.
“Having people out and having lost the last game at home last night, I guess you’re (playing) more with an edge,” Gasol said.
Rudy Gay and Brandon Paul each had 15 points as San Antonio closed out a six-game homestand with four victories.
Bryn Forbes, who was making his first career start, had 13 points on 3-for-5 shooting from 3.
San Antonio was also almost without Gay, who was “50/50” with an ailing back, but the veteran forward played 18 minutes.
“Rudy performed well,” Popovich said. “He had a sore back, but he came out and played. Stayed in the game. I wanted to bring him out, but he wanted to get some more minutes. I thought he was really aggressive on offense.”
San Antonio raced to a 30-8 lead in the opening quarter, extending the margin to 22 points at the close of the period.
The Bulls shot 35 percent and did not have any fastbreak points in the first quarter while the Spurs had eight.
“We haven’t been playing with that edge,” Chicago center Robin Lopez said. “I know we haven’t been talking. I know myself, there was a couple of plays where I wasn’t communicating the right way and I gave up a bucket. We just haven’t had that contagious communication that breeds good plays, that breeds hustle plays.”
Lopez and Bobby Portis each had 17 points to lead the Bulls.
Bulls: Chicago had nine steals after averaging 10.3 in its previous three games. ... The Bulls trailed by 22 points after the first quarter. It was the Spurs’ largest margin after the opening period since leading by 24 in Chicago in 2014. ... Justin Holiday was 1 for 4 on 3-pointers, snapping a 15-game streak in which me made at least two 3s. ... The Bulls have lost four straight in San Antonio. Chicago’s last victory at the AT&T Center was Jan. 29, 2014.
Spurs: Forbes is the third undrafted player under 6-foot-4 player to start a game in franchise history, joining Avery Johnson and Anthony Carter. ... Gay has 10-plus points in 10 of 13 games this season. Ginobili is the only Spurs reserve with more double-digit scoring through 13 games in the past 30 years. Ginobili had 10-plus points in all 13 games in 2008, when he won the Sixth Man of the Year. ... The Spurs had two back-to-back games at home in the same month for the first time in franchise history.
Chicago has 12 players with less than three years of experience, which could factor into the team’s 2-9 start, but it shouldn’t.
“You can if you want an excuse, a bad excuse,” Bulls veteran Quincy Pondexter said. “I don’t think we believe in excuses. I don’t think we feel sorry for ourselves. I think we have to figure out a way to make something click for us.”
Pondexter and Lopez are the only players on Chicago’s roster that have been in the NBA more than five seasons.
Kyle Anderson has started every game at small forward this season in place of Leonard.
“He’s splaying a complete game,” Popovich said. “He’s playing with high basketball IQ on both ends of the floor. He’s much more confident in what he does. People enjoy playing with him. He moves the basketball, he hits the open man and he’s getting more confident in his own shot.”
Forbes and Chicago reserve Denzel Valentine reunited after having played basketball together since they were seven-years old and into careers at Michigan State.
Bulls: Visit Oklahoma City on Wednesday night to close out their season series with the Thunder.
Spurs: Visit Dallas on Tuesday night in their first road game in two weeks.