Drummond leads strong finish as Bulls beat Spurs

All was quiet in the media room at the United Center after Monday's game when San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich popped in and asked why Bulls coach Billy Donovan hadn't arrived yet to begin talking to reporters.

"After that game, I would have been in here right away," Popovich joked.

Popovich may have been satisfied with his team's performance. They kept it close for three quarters before the Bulls pulled away for a 128-104 victory. It was the Bulls' third-straight win, San Antonio's ninth-straight loss.

This game delivered something you don't see often: Both Bulls centers recorded double-doubles. Nikola Vucevic produced a smooth 22 points and 12 rebounds, and while sitting out the fourth quarter.

Andre Drummond piled up 21 points and 15 boards in 21 minutes. Drummond nearly toppled the basket support on a fast-break dunk off a pass from Coby White early in the fourth.

"That's what I do," Drummond said. "That's why I'm here, to help this team in bringing the energy defensively. Quick with my hands, getting steals, altering shots around the rim and finishing strong offensively."

Drummond was also credited with 3 steals, twice sneaking into the backcourt to steal an inbounds pass after a Bulls basket.

"Yeah, I don't know how teams haven't done the scouting report on that yet," Drummond said. "I've done that for 11 years. You can check the tape, I've done that religiously. I read the game. I know who has the ball, I know who's going to throw a lazy pass, so I just prepare myself for it."

After falling out of the rotation in favor of a small lineup featuring 6-5 Derrick Jones Jr. at center, Drummond has returned to collect two double-doubles in his last three games.

And the center position will be in flux this summer. Vucevic will be an unrestricted free agent. Drummond signed a two-year deal with the Bulls last summer, but he does have a player option, so he can opt out and become a free agent potentially.

At the same time, San Antonio might have the league's worst interior defense with Jakob Poeltl and Zach Collins sharing time at center. So don't expect a Drummond dunk-fest every night.

The Bulls finished with seven players in double figures. Zach LaVine scored 20, DeMar DeRozan 19, Coby White 12, Patrick Williams 11 and Ayo Dosunmu 10.

"I think we're fine," Drummond said. "I think at this point of the season, I think all questions are out the window. I think we know what we are and how good we can be. It's up to us to display that each and every night."

In many ways, the story of this Bulls season has been playing to the level of competition. Heading into Monday's action, they were 9-5 against the top six teams in the East, but 8-9 against the 10 teams that are not even in position to make the play-in tournament.

The schedule maker tried to give the Bulls an easy one Monday. The Spurs not only brought the eight-game losing streak to town, but were also missing two of their top three scorers due to injury.

After leading by 11 at the end of the first quarter, the Bulls seemed to fall into a familiar mindset of "this is going to be easy," and relaxed. The game was tied during the final minute of the third quarter, but Drummond helped turn up the energy for a strong finish. He led the way with 12 points as the Bulls outscored the Spurs 38-19 in the fourth quarter.

"We were having a hard time with them coming downhill at us," Donovan said. "I think (Drummond's) ability to move his feet, his size at the rim. Then I think he just played inside his lane. He was a presence in pick-and-roll, he was a presence at the rim shot-blocking and then he was defensive rebounding.

"Offensively, he kept it really simple. When he does those things, it really helps our team and it changes our team in a lot of ways."

It was vital for the Bulls to get this win, since they have a tough three-game road trip, which starts right away in Memphis on Tuesday, followed by games against the Kyrie Irving-less Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland.

Alex Caruso missed his second game with left foot soreness, but Donovan called him a game-time decision earlier in the night, which suggests there's a chance he plays against Memphis.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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Chicago Bulls' Andre Drummond (3) pulls down a rebound against San Antonio Spurs' Blake Wesley (14) and Malaki Branham, front right, during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, in Chicago. Associated Press
Chicago Bulls' Andre Drummond (3) dunks against San Antonio Spurs' Jakob Poeltl (25) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, in Chicago. Associated Press
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