Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
The San Antonio Spurs face the Chicago Bulls in a matchup of two defensive-minded yet injury riddled teams.
San Antonio Spurs vs Chicago BullsAT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
March 6, 2013, 8:00 PM Spurs Time
TV: ESPN - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI
The San Antonio Spurs face the Chicago Bulls as the Spurs hunker down for the middle part of their nearly month long home stand. For some reason, this matchup is on national television, due to the fact that both ball clubs sport an All-Star poing guard in Tony Parker and Derrick Rose, respectively. However, neither of them look to be playing in this game, as Parker has been sidelined for four weeks with a Grade 2 ankle sprain while Rose has yet to see the court while rehabilitating his knee (though he was seen on the sidelines for the first time since the injury in the Bulls' loss against the Pacers). Nevertheless, this should be an interesting matchup, as the third and fourth best defensive teams go at each other, with two legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidates manning the middle for both teams in Tim Duncan and Joakim Noah.
The Spurs have a few keys to the game in their favor: Play off the home crowd, push the pace, and overwhelm the Bulls with depth. This is the Spurs' fourth home game in a home stand lasting six games, although they play 13 of their 15 March games in San Antonio overall. While the Spurs don't have the raucous crowds of Oakland or the near-college ball atmosphere of Oklahoma City, the Spurs undeniably play better at home than on the road. On the road they're a top 4 seed; at home they play some of the best ball in the league on both ends of the floor (as evidenced by their recent beatdowns of Sacramento and Detroit by a combined 67 points). Of course, this team has had hiccups like an overtime loss to Phoenix, but overall their home record is on par with the Heat and Nuggets.
Meanwhile, while the Spurs and Bulls are both top-notch defensive teams, their approach to the game and its pace cannot be any more different. The Spurs like to push the pace on offense; mostly to allow easy baskets and prevent defenses from entrenching themselves. After all, Parker is an OMFB, Kawhi Leonard is a treat to watch in the open court (he's not as artistic a dunker as many wings in the league, but man, he's still dangerous on the break), while guys like Danny Green leak out in transition to spot up from one of Pop's favored spots: the corner 3. Meanwhile, the Bulls aren't as athletic, but will try to win games through out-hustling their opponents in the rebound category, especially from folk like Noah, Luol Deng, and Jimmy Butler. Their half-court offense isn't as built on spacing and flow as the Spurs, instead hoping to get points by gang rebounding the offensive glass. Nevertheless, one of the disadvantages to their style is that they don't take care of the ball well. While Kirk Hinrich has provided stability at the point guard position despite his not-so-efficient scoring, Nate Robinson is more of a scorer, but is less trustworthy with the ball (go look up the Bulls' win-loss splits with Hinrich playing or not). The Bulls' turnovers fuel their rather iffy transition defense, a hallmark for a team that loves the offensive glass.
Lastly, the two teams approach rotations differently. Gregg Popovich understands health as paramount to contention chances, and although he will play the Big 3 whenever possible, he also sits them out when the situation calls for it (and sometimes, at a $250,000 price). Meanwhile, Tom Thibodeau seems to have the idea that he should have one of his best defenders on the court at all times; he approaches rotations like a defensive-minded Mike D'Antoni in that his best players take on heavy minutes. Luol Deng averages the most minutes per game of ANY player in the league, two years running now, while Noah isn't that far behind. Those two players seem to be on the court even in blowouts, even if Deng has a perfectly serviceable (and I'd argue, already better than him) backup in Jimmy Butler. The results cannot be overstated: Rose's injury may have been a fluke, but the game was already won for the Bulls when he was hurt. Taj Gibson will miss considerable time due to a sprained MCL. Hinrich has floated in and out of the rotation, with injuries to nearly every part of his body. Noah is battling plantar fasciitis. Deng has also missed time, while Richard Hamilton has also floated in and out of the rotation. Meanwhile, the Spurs have faced injury woes of their own, but they almost never seem to affect the team's quality of play night in and night out.
Bulls perspective can be found here: Blog A Bull
Game Prediction: The Spurs' superior offense, especially in transition, wins them the game. Spurs by 8.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.
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