CHICAGO — In the fourth quarter of the Chicago Bulls’ 128-104 win Monday, the San Antonio Spurs couldn’t keep Andre Drummond off the rim.
The veteran center crunched the ball through the hoop three times in the quarter. Each time he dangled off the metal — with one hand, with both, mouth open in a roar, lip curling into a snarl — to punctuate a dominant night in which he logged 21 points and 15 rebounds.
Monday’s performance at the United Center was a welcome vindication for Drummond, who was a healthy scratch in five of the previous 11 games as coach Billy Donovan struggled to fit the bulky center into his rotations.
And it was a welcome contribution for the Bulls, who improved to one game below .500 with their third consecutive win.
— The Bulls struggled to keep the Spurs at arm’s length through three quarters, allowing a 12-point lead to slip away in the third. But they found their footing in the fourth to squash any hope of a comeback, outscoring the Spurs 38-19 in the quarter and leading by 33 at one point.
— The dominant fourth allowed the Bulls to rotate in their younger reserves in the final three minutes, giving Dalen Terry and Tony Bradley Jr. cherished time on the court. Terry closed the game on an emphatic note with a soaring dunk for the Bulls’ final points.
— Coby White showcased an improved skill set on the defensive end, making two steals and providing a disruptive presence throughout the second half. White focused on his defense and ballhandling in the offseason, and both were on display Monday as he sparked the Bulls in transition with four assists.
— DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine suffered slow starts that contributed to the Bulls’ inability to pull away. LaVine went scoreless for the entire second quarter and didn’t break out of the drought until less than four minutes were left in the third. DeRozan scored only eight points until the final minutes of the third, when he came alive to score the final five points of the quarter and push the Bulls back ahead 90-85. Both players helped spark the fourth-quarter surge, and LaVine finished with 20 points and DeRozan with 19.
— The Bulls never found their shot from 3-point range, going 6-for-22 (27.2%) behind the arc. This ultimately didn’t affect the result, however, because the Spurs were almost as inaccurate, shooting 8-for-26 (30.8%) from 3-point range.
On top of his scoring and rebounding, Drummond recorded a team-high three steals — one of which came off his signature move of floating in the backcourt and snagging an outlet pass to the perimeter.
Drummond has used this move to take advantage of lackadaisical outlet passes throughout his career. After the game, he teased opponents for not picking up on it.
“I don’t know how teams haven’t done the scouting report on that,” Drummond said. “I’ve done that for 11 years, you can check the tapes. I’ve done that religiously. It’s something that I’m good at. I read the game, I know who has the ball, I know who’s going to make a lazy pass, so I just prepared myself for it.”
Stat of the game
Two-thirds of the Bulls’ scoring advantage came in the paint, where they outscored the Spurs 74-58.
Alex Caruso missed a second consecutive game because of a sore left foot suffered when he landed awkwardly in Thursday’s win over the Charlotte Hornets. Caruso was a game-time decision and warmed up with the team.
Where they stand
The Bulls improved to 26-27 and remained ninth in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind the Atlanta Hawks.
What comes next
The Bulls head out on a three-game trip, playing the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday. The three opponents have a 98-64 combined record.