Perhaps the most daunting test on the Bulls’ (23-22) six-game road trip was passed with flying colors Wednesday night with a 96-86 win over the mighty Spurs (33-13) at the AT&T Center, courtesy of placing seven players in double figures. With All-Star center Joakim Noah (10 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, four blocked shots) back in the lineup after a one-game hiatus due to illness, the Bulls jumped out to an early advantage, buoyed by Carlos Boozer’s (16 points, 12 rebounds) quick start. While the Spurs’ duo of future Hall of Fame big man Tim Duncan (17 points, 12 rebounds) and All-Star point guard Tony Parker (20 points, six assists) were effective, the Bulls’ stout defense and rebounding, coupled with San Antonio’s lack of ball security enabled the visitors to build a cushion. At the conclusion of the opening period, the Bulls, who also saw the return of veteran Kirk Hinrich (11 points)—in a backup role, behind point guard D.J. Augustin (15 points, five assists)—held a 21-15 lead, despite not shooting terribly efficiently from the field. The Spurs’ second unit quickly closed the gap early in the second quarter, going on an 8-2 run, leading to a Bulls timeout. Whatever adjustments Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau made didn’t immediately take, as San Antonio seized the lead and extended it, acquiring a comfortable margin of separation, with familiar face Marco Belinelli (11 points) and fellow guard Patty Mills each making their respective presences felt. However, with the likes of Jimmy Butler (19 points) and Taj Gibson (15 points) getting it going, the Bulls took control of the game and their momentum continued to build as halftime approached, with a 12-0 run heading into the intermission, making it a 40-36 affair in their favor. After the break, the Bulls clung to their slim edge and maintained it through the midway point of the third quarter. But the Spurs stayed within close contact and the game eventually evolved into a back-and-forth affair.