Following the Spurs’ 95-91 loss at the United Center, Popovich slammed his team and questioned their readiness to play, according to Michael C. Wright of ESPN.
“Guys get a lot of money to be ready to play. I don’t remember playing tonight. No Knute Rockne speeches. It’s your job. If you’re a plumber and you don’t do your job, you don’t get any work. I don’t think a plumber needs a pep talk. A doctor botches operations, and he’s not a doctor anymore. If you’re a basketball player, you come ready. It’s called maturity. It’s your job.”
San Antonio looked terrible in the first half and put up just 32 points in the first two quarters. They were unable to make shots, couldn’t get to the free throw line and the Bulls looked much more refined on their side of the ball. Kawhi Leonard was 3-of-8 in the half, and LaMarcus Aldridge wasn’t much better at 3-of-10.
Chicago tallied 45 points on 44 percent shooting, assisted on 14 of their 18 made field goals and out-rebounded the Spurs 28 to 22.
The Spurs missed a chance to go to 14-0 on the road this season and would’ve joined the Golden State Warriors as the only teams with at least 19 wins on the year.
Popovich later expounded on his earlier comments, citing how his team goes “through the motions in the first half”:
“We played 24 minutes again, as we have for about the last 10 games. We go through the motions in the first half. I think we shot one free throw in the first half. We shot four or so the second half. But we played harder in the second half. I don’t know if we played much smarter. Our opponents have outplayed us physically and execution-wise in most first halves for most of the season. So now we pull it together in the second half, and played harder and smarter and got it to [a] four [-point deficit]. That’s the disappointing part: We’re not a very consistent team, and we haven’t learned as a group that the game is 48 minutes. We also have some people playing very poorly. You have to participate in your own recovery. Some players have to play better.”
Wright also noted how San Antonio hardly conducts actual practices or has shootarounds because of their demanding schedule.
It was a much better second-half for the Spurs, who outscored Chicago 59-50 and bumped the field goal percentage to 50.
By the end of the game, Leonard had bounced back from his dreadful first-half performance. He finished with 24 on 10-of-19 and was the game’s leading scorer. Patty Mills was second with 16 off the bench. The Bulls had all five starters score in double-digits, and Dwyane Wade was the high-man with 20; Rajon Rondo finished one assist shy of a triple-double (12 points, ten rebounds and nine assists).
Not a single starter for San Antonio had a positive plus/minus, and Mills was the highest at +12.
The Brooklyn Nets play host to the Spurs on Saturday, and then San Antonio gets three days off before their next game against the Boston Celtics.