Rose scores 22, struggling Bulls beat Spurs

Derrick Rose scored 22 points and the struggling Chicago Bulls beat the San Antonio Spurs 104-81 on Thursday night.

The Bulls came away with a much-needed win after dropping six of eight and handed the defending champions their most lopsided loss of the season.

The Central division leaders broke this one open in the third quarter, outscoring the Spurs 31-20, and snapped San Antonio’s four-game win streak.

Rose, who called out his team after Monday’s loss at Cleveland, backed it up by going hard to the rim and hitting 9 of 16 shots. He led six Bulls in double figures.

Pau Gasol added 12 points and 17 rebounds after being voted to his fifth All-Star game and first as a starter.

Jimmy Butler scored 17. Taj Gibson added 15 points and nine rebounds. Aaron Brooks scored 15, and the Bulls snapped a three-game home losing streak.

After giving up at least 102 points in six of the previous eight games, Chicago held San Antonio to 37-percent shooting. The Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard scored all of his team-leading 16 points in the first half.

Rose had it going right from the start with 15 points the first half, and Chicago headed to the locker room with a 46-40 lead that was about to get much bigger.

Tony Snell converted a three-point play with 17.3 seconds left in the second quarter to start a 14-2 Bulls run that made it 57-42 early in the third. The Bulls stayed in control the rest of the way, putting aside the chaos for at least one night.

The recent struggles combined with Rose’s criticism and a meeting between the players and coach Tom Thibodeau painted an ugly picture for a team that was rolling along before the recent slide.

There is speculation that Thibodeau’s job is in jeopardy and that he is losing the locker room. But Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was not buying that.

"He’s not gonna lose any team," Popovich said. "I think you guys just have to have stories. So somebody loses a few games, there’s got to be a reason. I guess that’s the one that was picked. Sometimes players listen to me. Timmy stopped listening to me a long time ago. I don’t even coach him. You guys think I’m kidding. He just plays. I talk to him once in a while, but sometimes some guys don’t want to hear it. But as far as the team and being lost and that kind of thing, that’s not what’s happening here."

TIP-INS

Spurs: G Danny Green paid tribute to late ESPN sportscaster and fellow North Carolina product Stuart Scott on Thursday. He had "Stu" emblazoned on his left sneaker and "booyah" on his right one. "He was great at it and he brought a different kind of culture to the sports world," said Green, who wasn’t close to Scott but crossed paths with him over the years. "He was more of how it really is, I guess, it’s hard to really explain. He’s the reason why I studied what I studied in school. I’ve got a communications degree. The media area, that’s something I wanted to do growing up if the basketball thing didn’t work out for me. He was somebody I looked up to from the day I met him."

Bulls: C Joakim Noah missed his fourth straight game and F Mike Dunleavy Jr., his 11th in a row. Both have injured right ankles. Thibodeau said Noah has looked "very good" practicing on a limited basis the past two days and that Dunleavy is "very, very close" to returning.