Bulls' stumble across Texas continues

Chicago BullsSportsTrips and VacationsTravelBasketballP.J. BrownBen Wallace

The Bulls traveled enough Friday night to be done with this seven-game trip. For good measure, they double-dribbled, carried and threw the ball away in high volume as well.

Instead of turning over a new leaf on this annual extended November trip, the Bulls merely turned over, bumbling and stumbling to 23 miscues in a 100-83 loss to the Spurs.

At 0-3 in Texas, the trip must go on. Luckily, equipment manager John Ligmanowski handles shoes and uniforms or else the Bulls might lose those too.

The Spurs, who committed 24 turnovers of their own in a sloppy game, scored 32 points directly off Bulls turnovers.

"The top two problems in my opinion are our defense and turnovers," P.J. Brown said. "Those will kill you."

They certainly did against the Spurs, who were led by Tim Duncan's 21 points and 11 rebounds.

Perhaps more disturbing than their 3-6 record is the way they are losing. Their six losses are by an average of 10.8 points.

By allowing San Antonio to shoot 51.4 percent, they are surrendering 46.8 percent shooting by their opponents—a far cry from the league-leading percentages of the last two seasons.

"Our defense was very suspect," coach Scott Skiles said. "We allowed [Tony] Parker and [Beno] Udrih to penetrate us at will and kick out to their shooters. It's becoming increasingly hard to understand why we haven't made the commitment to stopping people."

The Bulls gave the illusion they were hanging around until San Antonio buried them with a 12-4 run to open the fourth quarter. At this point, their offense consisted of watching Ben Gordon, who missed on three straight wild shots.

When Gordon exited, Andres Nocioni took over in trying to do too much, driving wildly. After missing his first nine shots, Nocioni finally hit a jumper. But the Bulls trailed 89-73.

"We're indiscriminately driving in there," Skiles said.

Gordon led the Bulls with 21 points. But he committed seven turnovers and left with 3 minutes 13 seconds remaining to have X-rays taken on his left thumb. Those were negative, but the thumb is sprained.

"I couldn't move it," Gordon said. "It was real painful. But I'll be fine [for Sunday's game]."

San Antonio put ace defender Bruce Bowen on Kirk Hinrich, who tallied 12 points and six assists. But he also committed five turnovers, battled early foul trouble and drew a technical foul for arguing with official Dick Bavetta.

"I got frustrated," Hinrich said.

Everybody with the Bulls is.

Nocioni wandered down a hallway, muttering something in Spanish. Hinrich quietly berated his play. Ben Wallace, who had 10 rebounds and four blocks, shook his head.

"We ain't never going to panic," Wallace said. "But we have some serious issues we need to address. The coaching staff can only do so much. They put the game plan together. It's up to us to execute."

kcjohnson@tribune.com

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