SAN ANTONIO – There were good moments.
Derrick Rose continued playing at a high level, Justin Holiday has emerged as a rotation option, and E’Twaun Moore had another solid performance starting for the injured Jimmy Butler.
Good moments indeed.
But the Bulls needed perfection on Thursday at the AT&T Center in order to beat the Spurs, and after the 109-101 loss to the Western Conference powerhouse, found themselves again on the outside looking in for the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Not only did the loss end a two-game winning streak, but dropped the Bulls (32-31) out of that No. 8 spot, which is now occupied by the Detroit Pistons.
There’s still time with 19 games left, but it’s not the friendliest schedule, and it’s still a team looking for a consistent identity as March rolls along.
“It would mean a lot,’’ Rose said, when asked what it would mean if the Bulls fell short of making the postseason. “Number one, we all want to make the playoffs. Two, control what I can control, and three, if we wasn’t to make it, I’ll be able to be with my son.’’
Definitely more daddy time than was expected.
The front office deemed this roster a championship-caliber team in the offseason. So far they’ve only panned out to be a team trying to claw its way into a playoff spot. Not a good look, but definitely their reality.
“Not really,’’ Rose said, when asked if he’s starting to look ahead at the remainder of the schedule with so much at stake. “That’s off the strength of I never look at the schedule because I don’t want to get my mind racing too much or not being able to sleep at night. So just take it day-by-day, game-by-game until the day of the game.’’
Which hasn’t been an issue for the Spurs this season.
With the win over the Bulls, they improved to 55-10 on the year, as well as winning their 40th straight home game going back to last season, and their 31st straight this season. A model of consistency that Gar/Pax could only dream in duplicating.
“Such a great team that plays so well together,’’ Hoiberg said of the Spurs. “When you’re around each other as long as San Antonio has been, you know each other like the back of your hand. They play off of each other, they throw no-look passes, they always know that they’re one step ahead of you.
“They’re the best big-to-big passing team in the league. They do so many things. They keep you off balance, and they’re just an elite defensive team as well.’’
That defense was front and center against the Bulls, as San Antonio forced 21 turnovers and only spit up eight on their end. The Bulls shot better from the three-point line, the free throw line, and outrebounded the Spurs, but the turnovers were their downfall.
“Played well for the most part, except for the turnovers,’’ Hoiberg said. “You can’t give a team like that, especially in their home building, that many extra opportunities and expect to win. We still had opportunities to win it, didn’t go down, but just too many turnovers.’’
The Bulls will have little time to rest now, facing Miami at home Friday night.
“We played a great game, turned the ball over a lot, including myself,’’ Taj Gibson said. “Just plays you wish you could take back. A couple easy bunnies, it was just one of those nights. We had great looks. The energy was there. We just came up short.’’