Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili

Game of the night: The Spurs would like your attention, please

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After 24 minutes of decent offensive execution with poor finishing, the Spurs’ third quarter was an explosion of contrasts. San Antonio’s inexplicable misses were made right again, and so were some of their lower quality looks, for that matter. The Spurs just went to that happy place, where every three-pointer is accompanied by candy raining from the sky, and each swift cutter left behind them the scent of freshly baked cinnamon buns. SanAn won’t be able to tap into this kind of nirvana on a nightly basis, but this is what the Spurs are capable of when the five on the floor start harmonizing.

It didn’t matter who hit the hardwood for San Antonio; Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Matt Bonner, Manu Ginobili, George Hill, Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess, Gary Neal…everyone clad in black, white, and silver just got it. We should expect nothing less from the Spurs after all this time, but this was a special combination of pitch-perfect execution and elite offensive talent, the latter of which has eluded the Spurs at times, even at the height of their powers.

It may not have even been the best third quarter of the night — New Orleans put on a hell of a show — but consider this your regular reminder that the Spurs are not only damn capable, but damn talented. They established an offensive rhythm in the first half even while they struggled to put up points, and when the time was right, it all came together, and the result was a nice 109.6 points per 100 possessions. There’s no question that when San Antonio has the capability to produce a run like this, they’re super-quasi-demi-contenders.

They push the pace when it’s appropriate (which is more often than longstanding Spurs fans might be used to), but more importantly, they continue to grind out teams with their ball movement in half-court sets. With the ball swinging and the right players making the right moves, it’s no surprise that San Antonio went off in the third. It’s just a bit shocking that it didn’t happen sooner.

San Antonio outscored Chicago 37-12 in that pivotal third frame, and though the Bulls would eventually make things interesting at times in the fourth, the Spurs coasted. They lived off the momentum they had gained a quarter earlier, and found sustenance in their rhythm and lead

But focusing too much on the third quarter (and the Spurs, for that matter) does a great disservice to what was a sturdy offensive outing by the Bulls. Derrick Rose taking 27 shots shouldn’t be a part of anyone’s game plan, but he was attacking the San Antonio defense in all the right places. Rose still steps into those long two-point jumpers more than he should, but on a night where he balanced long — but open — twos with an array of drives and floaters, I can hardly lambast him for trying to take this game over.

You can’t throw the ball down to Joakim Noah against Tim Duncan, even though he had a productive night to finish with 10 and 14. Luol Deng scored 18 points, but shot just 6-of-17 along the way. Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer gave the Bulls some nice play off the bench, but neither is a go-to option in any regard. No other Bull was creating quality shots, and many of Rose’s teammates (I’m looking at you, Taj Gibson) couldn’t even finish a few of their spoon-fed buckets. Rose did what he had to do, and though that led to satchel-full of field goal attempts and four turnovers, he wasn’t given all that many alternatives to a hero act.

The game itself may not have been as entertaining as some of the night’s other contests, but the message here is important. The Spurs executed defensively as they are ought to do, but they won this game with a deluge rather than their typical maelstrom. San Antonio may be a step removed from some of the league’s truly elite squads, but they can do it all, even when faced with a tough start against a quality team. San Antonio is still San Antonio, but their offensive potency in games like these should make us all wonder if they’re capable of being something more.

Spurs fall to Bulls 95-91 after winning first 13 road games

Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade (3) is defended by San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/David Banks)
Associated Press
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CHICAGO (AP) — Dwyane Wade scored 20 points, and the Chicago Bulls handed San Antonio its first road loss after a 13-0 start, hanging on to beat the Spurs 95-91 on Thursday night.

San Antonio fell one win shy of matching the NBA’s best road start set by the Golden State Warriors last season. The Spurs cut an 18-point deficit midway through the third quarter to four in the closing minutes, only to come up short.

Kawhi Leonard scored 24 for San Antonio. Patty Mills added 16 points, hitting 4 of 6 3-pointers. Former Bull Pau Gasol had 13 points and 10 rebounds in his first game in Chicago since signing with San Antonio in the summer, but the Spurs lost a road game for the first time since Oklahoma City knocked them out in the Western Conference semifinals last season.

Jimmy Butler scored all of his 13 points for Chicago in the second half. Rajon Rondo added 12 points, nine assists and 10 rebounds, and Chicago picked up the win after dropping three in a row and six of nine.

The Spurs hadn’t dropped a regular-season road game since Denver beat them on April 8. But after a big push down the stretch, they came up short in this one.

The Bulls led 65-47 midway through the third following a surge by Butler, who scored seven in a 54-second span after missing his first six shots. But the Spurs jumped back into it in the closing minutes of the quarter.

They went on an 11-2 run that Mills finished with a 3 to cut it to 72-66 just under a minute into the fourth.

Things got real tight when Gasol nailed a 3 to pull San Antonio to within 88-84 with 3:24 left. Doug McDermott then hit three free throws after being fouled by Tony Parker, and the teams basically exchanged baskets the rest of the way.

TIP-INS

Spurs: Parker had eight points and five assists after missing a game because of a bruised left knee. … For the second straight game, the Spurs set a season low for first-quarter scoring. They had 17 points after managing 19 at Minnesota on Tuesday night.

Bulls: F Doug McDermott scored eight points after being sidelined because of a concussion since Nov. 11. … Butler had scored 20 or more in 15 consecutive games, the longest streak by a Bulls player since Michael Jordan did it in 24 straight during the 1995-96 season.

 

Parker returns to Spurs’ lineup against Bulls

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CHICAGO (AP) San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker returned to the lineup Thursday night against the Chicago Bulls after missing a game because of a bruised left knee.

The seven-time All-Star did not play at Minnesota on Tuesday night after knocking knees with a Milwaukee Bucks defender the previous night. He started against the Bucks after missing two games with a thigh contusion.

Parker came into Thursday averaging 9.4 points and 4.4 assists.

Chicago’s Doug McDermott returned to the rotation after missing nearly a month because of a concussion.

Gasol, Douglas lead Grizzlies past Trail Blazers, 88-86

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AP
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Marc Gasol scored 36 points and Toney Douglas made two free throws with less than a second left to give the Memphis Grizzlies an 88-86 comeback victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.

Douglas finished with 11 points, scoring the game’s final six points to seal Memphis’ fifth straight victory.

Gasol was 13 of 24 from the field, including 4 of 6 from outside the arc. But Douglas, signed by Memphis this week because of injuries, took over down the stretch. The guard scored on a 19-footer with 34 seconds left, then converted two pairs of free throws in the last 20 seconds.

CJ McCollum led the Trail Blazers with 24 points, and Damian Lillard had 19 on 6-of-18 shooting. Evan Turner had 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Portland held a 79-68 lead after Al-Farouq Aminu scored inside with 5:28 left. But Memphis clicked off a 14-2 rally and it settled into a one-possession contest.

Tony Allen had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Memphis.

Shooting issues that plagued both teams in the first half, spread past intermission as each started 4 of 14 from the field. That helped Portland maintain its lead after carrying a 50-43 advantage into halftime.

Despite converting only 5 of 20 shots in the third, Portland actually extended its lead, entering the fourth with a 69-61 advantage.

The Portland lead would reach 13 again in the fourth and was still at 11 when Memphis started its rally behind Gasol, who had nine straight points for the Grizzlies.

Portland had a previous 13-point lead in the second quarter as every Grizzly but Gasol was suffering shooting woes.

Gasol managed 19 points in the half, while Portland got 15 points each from McCollum and Lillard.

TIP-INS

Blazers: F Evan Turner started his first game of the season due to an injury to Maurice Harkless. …McCollum entered the game averaging 24 points. … G Allen Crabbe finished with seven points after scoring at least 14 in four straight games. …C Mason Plumlee had four points, ending his streak of seven straight games in double figures.

Grizzlies: Memphis coach David Fizdale finally said enough about calls and no-calls late in the first half to earn a technical courtesy of official J. T. Orr. Lillard missed the free throw to open the third. …Gasol also got a tech in the third quarter for arguing a call. … F JaMychal Green had a career-high 18 rebounds. His previous best was 17 this week in a win at New Orleans.

EXTENSIONS

Earlier Thursday, the Grizzlies announced that they have agreed to multi-year extensions with general manager Chris Wallace, John Hollinger, executive vice president of basketball operations, and Ed Stefanski, vice president of player personnel. Terms were not disclosed.

HARKLESS HURT

Portland forward Maurice Harkless did not play because of a left ankle sprain suffered in the latter stages of the Portland’s 115-107 loss at Milwaukee on Wednesday night. “I remember him wincing. He was on the free throw line,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “It was late in the game, like the last 2 minutes.”

NOTHING FREE

Both teams struggled from the free throw line. Portland made 29 of 40 in the game while Memphis was 20 of 30.

UP NEXT

Trail Blazers: Portland hits the middle game of a five-game trip, landing in Indiana on Saturday to face the Pacers.

Grizzlies: Memphis continues its homestand Saturday against the Gold State Warriors.

Stephen Curry gets fouled, hits crazy rainbow circus shot vs. Jazz (VIDEO)

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Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry is a wizard when it comes to shots you don’t think can ever reach the iron. Each time he does something like this, he surprises you even though you should be used to it by now.

But I’m not. The Utah Jazz aren’t. Heck, maybe even Steph isn’t used to it by now.

As Curry was driving down the left side of the floor on Thursday, Shelvin Mack got out of position and wound up trailing the Warriors star. With Curry rounding the pick, Mack reached and earned a foul.

Thinking quickly, Curry then hoisted up a rainbow of a shot that gently kissed the net on the way down.

Curry would go on to make the free throw for the 3-point play.