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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Chicago Bulls

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The Bulls hobble into San Antonio for a nationally televised showdown of two teams many considered second best in their respective conferences coming into the year.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs vs. Chicago Bulls

AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
March 10, 2016, 7 p.m. Spurs Time
TV: TNT Radio: WOAI 1200AM

Injuries have plagued this iteration of the Chicago Bulls since the turn of the decade, and trailing not far behind has been a cloud of doubt over how the club has managed its players' health. Whether it was playing guys too hard or mismanaging injuries when they occur, there's been a trend of players breaking the fourth wall and needing to heavily consider life beyond the game of basketball.

These two teams have really been polar opposites in that regard, with Gregg Popovich infamously resting his stars to the ire of David Stern and opposing fans alike. The Bulls, meanwhile, followed the Thibsian model of doling heavy minutes to their starters throughout the 82-game season, often arriving at the postseason like an army after a land war in Asia.

It's possible that Jimmy Butler, in light of what happened with Luol Deng and Derrick Rose, will push for a bit more caution after being the team's minutes workhorse in the early years of his career. Butler had returned to play 34 minutes against the Rockets following a month off with a knee injury, but it appears that may have been premature. He won't suit up tonight as he awaits a second opinion from the venerable Dr. James Andrews.

Going into a game without the All-Star two-guard isn't a handicap coach Fred Hoiberg would wish for in the best of times, and playing against the Spurs, who are a league-best 30-0 at home, isn't that. Beyond his scoring and playmaking, Chicago will really miss Butler's presence on the perimeter as they attempt to thwart the Spurs' ball movement and three-point shooting -- not to mention slowing down Kawhi Leonard, who continues to look like a top-five MVP candidate (or top-four Steph Curry runner-up if you prefer). Their defense had already slipped this year before Butler went out, but it's been especially porous since.

Hoiberg does still have bodies to throw out there, especially on the wings with guys like Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott (who had a very solid game in the Bulls' win over SA earlier in the year), but it'll take big contributions from a few of them to tilt the game in their favor. And while Derrick Rose has elevated his game a bit in Butler's absence, he's still prone to turnovers and inconsistent with his jumper. He should get plenty of looks tonight when the Spurs are forced to go under his screens.

Guarding Rose to start will probably be Tony Parker, whose toe kept him out of the Spurs' win in Minnesota. Andre Miller started in his place and had a very efficient 13 points to go with five assists in 25 minutes of play. We'll see how the Frenchman looks if he suits up.

It's been nearly a month-a-half since the Bulls won their last road game, while the Spurs' dominance at home speaks for itself. I expect the Spurs to build a lead in the first half that they're able to keep, which would be ideal: this game wasn't scheduled to be a comfortable W, but it could serve to help San Antonio fine-tune some of the smaller details (and give a bit more run for the new guys) in anticipation of the end-of-season gauntlet that awaits (::gulp::).

Matchup to watch: Pau Gasol's length and style of play has always seemed to benefit from playing with the Spurs, who haven't had the athleticism at the position to overwhelm him on either end of the floor. As Pau's mobility has slipped, so has Tim's, and it's generally seemed that Pau has gotten the best of the matchup. I'd expect a good game from him, although I'm not sure it'll be enough for Chicago to pull out the win.

San Antonio Spurs: 54-10

Chicago Bulls: 32-30

March 10, 2016

AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

7:00 pm, CDT

TV: TNT

Starters

Tony Parker*

PG

Derrick Rose

Danny Green

SG

E'Twaun Moore

Kawhi Leonard

SF

Mike Dunleavy

LaMarcus Aldridge

PF

Taj Gibson

Tim Duncan

C

Pau Gasol


Game prediction: Spurs by 12.

For the Bulls fans' perspective, visit Blog A Bull.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher.