CHICAGO | Bulls' Hall of Famer Michael Jordan turns 50 this weekend and coach Tom Thibodeau probably wished he had MJ in the lineup against the NBA's winningest team, even now.
The San Antonio Spurs were without Tim Duncan (knee), Manu Ginobili (hamstring) and point guard Tony Parker (knee) Monday night and still had enough firepower for a 103-89 win fueled by 29 points off Bulls' turnovers.
Kawhi Leonard led the charge with 28 points, Danny Green had 18 and Tiago Splitter and Gary Neal 16 apiece as the Spurs (41-12) shot 52 percent for the game — 50 percent from beyond the arc — and had only eight turnovers.
Little-used Nando De Colo filled in for Parker and finished with nine points, seven assists and just two turnovers in 33 minutes.
"The bench obviously did a great job," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, a Merrillville graduate. "They had a great night and played very well together. They were very energetic. I'm really thrilled for them.
"You hope you can play with anybody in your system, but it was a tough challenge for them and I couldn't be prouder of what they did. We caught the Bulls on a bad night and we've had those, too."
Thibodeau held a lengthy closed door meeting with his team afterward and spared no feelings.
"Your intensity, you have control over. But right now, we're not getting it done," he said, refusing to use Kirk Hinrich's ailing elbow as an excuse. "The season's a grind and this is going to be a tough one if we're not committed to the grind.
"We're not going hard enough and that has to be corrected."
Nate Robinson, filling in for Hinrich, led the Bulls (30-21) with 20 points. Richard Hamilton had 16 and Joakim Noah's 15 rebounds gave Chicago an overwhelming 49-26 advantage on the glass.
"It doesn't matter who's on the court. You've got to play hard," Taj Gibson agreed. "It was a battle. They made tough shots with a hand in their face."
Thibodeau's pregame talk with the media almost served as an omen of what was to come.
"When Pop got there, he had an idea of how he wanted to run that organization," Thibodeau said. "I was there about three weeks with him and he already had a clear vision of how he wanted to build the organization."
Popovich had his own "region" fan club in attendance with the Merrillville athletic department reportedly bringing a group of five to the United Center and a dozen buddies making the trip with Valparaiso's Arlie Pierce, Pop's best friend.