The San Antonio Spurs have dropped back-to-back games for the first time all season, and each performance has been a bit uncharacteristic.
Now they’ll be missing Manu Ginobili as they look to get back on track Wednesday night against a Chicago Bulls team hoping to have Joakim Noah back in the lineup to begin its six-game road trip.
The Spurs learned earlier Wednesday that the 36-year-old Ginobili, averaging 12.1 points, will miss the next three to four weeks with a strained hamstring. They were already missing Danny Green (broken finger), Kawhi Leonard (broken hand) and Tiago Splitter (sprained shoulder).
Those injuries along with Ginobili’s absence will make it even harder for San Antonio (33-12) to turn things around. The Spurs have lost four of six following a six-game winning streak, struggling in particular over the last two games.
They never led and trailed by as many as 29 in Sunday’s 113-101 loss to Miami in an NBA Finals rematch, then led by 15 in the first half before falling 97-90 on Tuesday against Houston, which was without leading scorer James Harden.
Boris Diaw scored a season-high 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for San Antonio, which had its 15-game streak of scoring at least 100 points snapped.
Tony Parker finished with 17 points, while Tim Duncan had 12 points, 14 boards and four blocks, recording his fourth double-double in five games.
"I thought defensively we did a pretty decent job of controlling the game for a long time, and then it just got away from us," Duncan told the league’s official website. "We just have to get everybody sort of swarming toward the ball."
San Antonio won both meetings last season with Chicago (22-22), which begins a long road trip while Disney on Ice occupies the United Center.
The Bulls had won four of five before falling 95-86 to Minnesota on Monday, a game Noah sat out due to an illness. He traveled to San Antonio and coach Tom Thibodeau hopes he can play in this contest.
"When you lose a guy like Jo your margin for error is smaller," Thibodeau said.
Carlos Boozer had 20 points and 14 rebounds, while Taj Gibson finished with 10 points and 10 boards starting in Noah’s place. Chicago allowed 46 points in the paint without Noah manning the middle.
"He’s an All-Star. You’re going to feel it (when Noah is out)," Gibson said. "He was playing real phenomenal. He’s one of the vocal leaders, rebounding, playing defense, controlling the offensive end and making plays for guys.
"We got to keep pushing forward."
Chicago heads into its trip having won six of seven on the road, but it has lost two of its last three overall.
"We can get it done. We can never lose sight of how hard we have to play," Thibodeau said. "We can’t play hard for 32 minutes. We have to play hard the whole game."
After this contest, the Bulls face New Orleans, Sacramento, Phoenix, Golden State and the Los Angeles Lakes on a trip that spans 12 days.
"It’s going to be a lot of adversity," Gibson told the team’s official website. "We just have to focus on the next one. "We’re going to get some guys back healthy. It’s going to be a good test. It will be good to get away, get away from home for a while, to focus on getting some wins and focus on having adversity on the road."
San Antonio is one of the league’s highest-scoring teams, averaging 104.4 points, but Chicago is one of the NBA’s stingiest with 92.9 allowed. The Bulls, though, are scoring only 92.8 points per game – second-worst in the league.