The Chicago Bulls were one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference, having won 11 of their last 14 games following Sunday's stirring overtime victory over the defending champion Miami Heat. Their second-ranked defense can stifle even the best scorers in the league.
But the San Antonio Spurs were not impressed. They manhandled Chicago on Tuesday night in a 104-96 win that wasn't nearly as close as the final score indicated. Even the home-court advantage of the United Center couldn't save the Bulls, as San Antonio improved to 24-6 on the road, the NBA's best mark away from home.
Noah was right, of course. The Spurs starters annihilated Noah and the Bulls from the opening tip, jumping out to a 38-14 lead by the end of the first quarter. Point guard Tony Parker scored 16 of his 20 points in the opening frame.
The Spurs shot 61 percent from the field as a team, including a ridiculous 7-of-10 from beyond the arc, en route to a 61-33 halftime lead.
By the third quarter, the SB Nation website Pounding the Rock was shocked by the ease with which the Spurs were able to utterly thwart the schemes of noted defensive mastermind Tom Thibodeau:
Thibs spent all of halftime painstaking laying out a new defensive strategy, one the Spurs solved within two minutes.— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) March 12, 2014
The Bulls were only able to close the gap with a 30-14 fourth quarter, long after the Spurs starters had exited the game. Those garbage-time points were obviously not enough to placate Noah.
San Antonio has now won seven straight games and 10 of its last 11. The Spurs currently hold the best record in the NBA. So maybe the result wasn't so shocking after all.
The road doesn't get much easier for Chicago; the Bulls' next game is Thursday against the Houston Rockets.