Derrick Rose and Tony Parker didn't see much of each other during the All-Star game last weekend, but they got close enough Wednesday night to give the Chicago Bulls a scare.
Rose, last year's NBA MVP, says his knee is fine after crashing into Parker - and the Eastern Conference leaders are still rolling along.
Shaking off a scary-looking collision with Parker in the first quarter, Rose scored 29 points and Chicago cooled off the streaking Spurs 96-89. The Bulls won for the 11th time in 13 games while becoming only the second visiting team to win in San Antonio this season.
Rose writhed on the floor for several minutes after banging knees with Parker, who stood unfazed after the impact. Bulls trainers rushed to the star's side, but Rose got up slowly and walked back to the bench. He never left the game.
"When I first hit him, there was a lot of pain in there," Rose said. "But after laying down there for a little bit, I got up and was good."
Gary Neal led the Spurs with 21 points off the bench, scoring 15 in the fourth. He sank two big 3-pointers in the quarter, one knotting the score at 75 and the second putting the Spurs within three, but San Antonio floundered late and had its homecoming spoiled after going 8-1 during the winningest nine-game road trip in NBA history.
Joakim Noah added 10 points and 13 rebounds for Chicago. Rose scored six in the fourth, including two crucial shots on back-to-back possessions in the final 2 minutes.
"It's very tough," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of trying to stop Rose. "He's a great player."
Tim Duncan had 18 points and 10 rebounds. He brought the Spurs back from an 11-point deficit in the third quarter after starting out rusty following the longest midseason break of his career. The 35-year-old wasn't at All-Star weekend for the first time but relished the rest in the compressed, lockout-shortened schedule.
Duncan scored 12 in the third while Parker - who was an All-Star but played only sparingly in Orlando on Sunday night - struggled to keep pace with Rose. Parker finished with 11 points on 5-of-16 shooting, had nine assists and stumbled through his lowest-scoring game in a month.
In fact, Parker's most memorable play may have been the one that nearly took out Rose. But after getting hurt, Rose immediately proved he was OK by darting toward the basket and finishing a tough layup on the very next possession.
After scoring 32 points and sinking a crucial jumper with 19.4 seconds left to beat lowly New Orleans on Tuesday night, Rose delivered late again. He scored 13 in the second half and hit a 9-foot bank shot with 1:46 left that put Chicago up 87-82.
Duncan quickly answered, but on the next possession Rose all but finished off the Spurs. This time it was a tough 18-footer over Duncan's outstretched hand that put the Bulls up 89-84, and Luol Deng's 3-pointer with 39.6 seconds left stretched the lead to six and sealed a winning start to Chicago's three-game road swing.
"I told you, playing every point guard on the planet is fun, where I love the challenge," Rose said of his matchup with Parker. "He's a veteran point guard, knows all the moves, plays great for that team."
San Antonio has been practically invincible at home. But the Spurs, now 13-2 at the AT&T Center, aren't going anywhere soon: They'll play their next six at home as amends for spending the last month on their most successful Rodeo Road Trip ever.
Danny Green added 11 points for the Spurs. C.J. Watson scored 12 off the bench for Chicago, and Deng finished with 10.
Richard Hamilton started again for the Bulls after returning from a monthlong absence Tuesday against the Hornets. Hamilton has been bothered by a sore thigh and played just 15 minutes, scoring two points on 1-of-8 shooting.
Notes: The Spurs and Bulls won't play again this season. ... Chicago has played an NBA-high 37 games, but its schedule gets somewhat lighter in the second half. The Bulls will play their remaining 29 games over the next 57 days.