Four wins in a row -- all of them at home in seven days -- brought the San Antonio Spurs back to their "happy" place and turned them back into a team that's playing like NBA followers have come to expect during a run of 21 straight appearances in the postseason.
The same can't be said for the Chicago Bulls, who venture in to the Alamo City on Saturday for a dustup with the Spurs at the AT&T Center.
San Antonio rolled to a 125-87 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday as LaMarcus Aldridge poured in 27 points on 12-of-14 shooting in just three quarters and led six teammates in double-figure scoring.
Rudy Gay added 21 points for San Antonio on 8-of-10 shooting, and DeMar DeRozan and Marco Belinelli added 14 each. Patty Mills and Derrick White hit for 11 points apiece, and Bryn Forbes scored 10 for the Spurs, who outshot the Clippers 58 percent to 36 percent.
"We played a really good defensive game," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "You know, that fuels your offense in most situations, so I like to think we're getting better - more consistent defensively."
The Spurs' four-game run has propelled them back above .500 (15-14) for the first time since they were 8-7 after beating defending NBA champion Golden State on Nov. 18.
"If you can't take care of home court, then you're in trouble," Aldridge said. "We had a lot of games on the road and that kind of caught up with us. Coming home, guys wanted to recharge and just try to take care of this homestand."
The Bulls have been a disaster this season, losing 10 of their past 11 games and performing so poorly that coach Fred Hoiberg was fired Dec. 3. Interim coach Jim Boylen has not fared much better than Hoiberg, producing one win in five games at the helm as Chicago tries to find its footing despite a slew of injuries.
Chicago's latest setback was a 97-91 loss on Thursday to Orlando in Mexico City. Zach LaVine scored 23 points and Justin Holiday finished with 18 points for the Bulls (6-23), who struggle with the worst record in the Eastern Conference.
"We are on the right direction," Holiday said afterward. "We got another loss, but we are on the right direction."
Holiday canned four 3-pointers and has at least one in 39 straight games, the longest streak in Bulls history and his career.
After the game, the Bulls confirmed that forward Jabari Parker will be out of the regular rotation going forward. He played just four scoreless minutes in the loss to the Magic on Thursday, a move Boylen said was more about matchups than Parker's play.
"It's about the team, and you play your minutes when you're in there, and when you're not, you support the guys who are," Boylen said after the loss. "We have a lot of games left, and we're going to need all of our people. Going forward, (Parker) is part of our team, and it's not about the individual, it's about the team. We'll see what his minutes are going forward."
The Spurs the Bulls in the teams' first meeting this season, a 108-107 decision in Chicago, and own a four-game win streak against the Bulls. The Spurs are 55-33 all time against Chicago and 32-11 in the Alamo City.