SAN ANTONIO—Few NBA scores will raise eyebrows like this one:
Bulls 106, Spurs 99.
Here's another first: The Bulls have won twice on the dreaded November circus trip for the first time since Michael Jordan departed in 1998. A victory over the struggling Houston Rockets on Saturday night would put them at .500 for the trip.
"It's tough playing them," Chris Duhon said of the Spurs. "This was the way we need to play all the time to achieve [our] goals."
Duhon and Ben Gordon came up big down the stretch. Duhon scored 10 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter. He also finished with seven assists, five rebounds, two steals and just one turnover. Gordon led five Bulls in double digits with 19 points.
The Bulls even had perennial All-Star Tim Duncan fumbling the ball late in the game and forced Manu Ginobili to scramble to toss up an off-balance three-pointer with less than 30 seconds to go. Duncan scored a game-high 24 points to go with 11 rebounds.
The hosts looked uneasy down the stretch, a rarity this season for the defending NBA champions, who are 10-3.
Othella Harrington kept the Bulls close early, and Darius Songaila had critical baskets from the top of the key in the second quarter.
Everyone pitched in as the Bulls were in dire need of a balanced team effort, especially because Harrington and Michael Sweetney were in foul trouble the entire game. Sweetney played just 11 minutes and scored five points.
"It got complicated," Bulls forward Andres Nocioni said.
But Nocioni made it look fairly easy, probably because he's comfortable playing power forward. Nocioni scored 13.
"We went with a small lineup, and they went small too," Skiles said.
"I think it played to our advantage. It kind of got them out of their game. We've played small so much in the last two years, our guys are accustomed to it."
Intent on preventing Tony Parker from controlling the game, the Bulls, for the most part, were successful. They cut him off almost every time he attempted to break them down by penetrating.
"In watching them, taking nothing away from Tim, Parker has been the key for them," Skiles said. "Duncan is Duncan. He's going to have a great year every year. But Tony's shooting 57 percent."
To be exact, Parker was shooting an astounding 56.6 percent heading into the game.
"Parker never really got loose on us, and then we hit big shots," Skiles said.
Parker finished with a season-low 13 points.
Ginobili (16 points), Nick Van Exel (15) and Michael Finley (12) also were in double figures for San Antonio.
The Spurs should have seen this coming. After all, the Bulls took them to overtime before losing less than three weeks ago.
"We've had a tendency to play pretty good against them," Skiles said. "We just couldn't get over the hump."
Until Friday, that is.