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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Chicago Bulls

Can the Silver and Black start their four-game homestand on a positive note?

NBA: FEB 14 Spurs at Bulls Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs have returned to the AT&T Center for a four-game homestand after a surprisingly successful road trip that saw them ascend to third place in the Western Conference. A no-frills loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves squashed their winning streak, and the Chicago Bulls won’t make life any easier for the good guys.

Gregg Popovich and crew enter this contest shorthanded, but their team-first approach fits almost any personnel well as long as players are willing to move without the ball and make unselfish passes. Keldon Johnson was magnificent in his last outing, and the Silver and Black will depend on him to set the tone on the court tonight.

San Antonio Spurs (3-2) vs. Chicago Bulls (3-2)

October 28, 2022 | 7:30 PM CT

Watch: KENS 5 | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Dominick Barlow (Out — Two Way), Charles Bassey (Out — Two Way), Devin Vassell (Out — Knee), Josh Primo (Out — Glute)

Bulls Injuries: Kostas Antetokounmpo (Out — Two Way), Lonzo Ball (Out — Knee), Marko Simonovic (Out — On Assignment) Zach LaVine (Questionable — Knee)

What To Watch For

  • Jeremy Sochan is fresh off a pair of breakthrough outings against the Timberwolves, where he scored in double figures for the first time in his professional career. He showcased his unwavering motor and defensive versatility, comfortably covering Anthony Edwards off the dribble for multiple possessions, meeting Rudy Gobert at the rim for a perfectly timed block, and outrunning everyone in transition for layups and alley-oops. Sochan will now look to preserve his positive momentum as the Spurs return to the familiar confines of the AT&T Center for their first matchup with the Bulls this season. The rookie forward will probably spend most of his time guarding Patrick Williams, a former lottery selection in need of a standout performance following a second-half benching on Saturday that has led to a reduced role in recent games. With that said, the 19-year-old should come prepared to switch onto All-Stars like DeMar DeRozan and Zach Lavine. Locking up dynamic scorers is a tall order, but facing these challenges headfirst will only make Sochan better down the road.
  • Josh Primo and Devin Vassell will remain sidelined on the first night of San Antonio’s four-game homestand, which should give other guards on the roster a chance to prove themselves to head coach Gregg Popovich. Josh Richardson and Romeo Langford received most of the minutes left behind by all the absences in Minnesota, but they might have competition for minutes this go-round. The Spurs recalled Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley from the G League less than 24 hours ago, and they could have an opportunity to make their NBA debut. While the rookies will undoubtedly see a bunch of valuable reps with the Austin affiliate this season, it isn’t tough to imagine them sneaking into the action for a shorthanded team if the score gets out of hand or someone drastically underperforms. Primo had a similar experience during his maiden voyage with the Silver and Black, and these 19-year-olds are on a rebuilding franchise with lesser aspirations. Branham is better equipped than Welsey to contribute within the motion-heavy offense as a three-point shooter and cutter, though the latter has an explosive first step with the ball in his hands that can force a defense to collapse.
  • DeMar DeRozan recently spoke on a podcast about how he felt irrelevant during his three seasons with the Spurs. San Antonio made it into the NBA playoffs once and rarely had nationally televised games over that stretch, so that is a fair albeit harsh review. The five-time All-Star spoke admirably about Gregg Popovich, and he was the engine of the offense in the 2-1-0, but he never thrived here in the same way he has with the Bulls. Chicago surrounded DeRozan with outstanding perimeter defenders, reliable floor spacers, and a perfect co-star in Zach LaVine. The veteran forward took off in his new environment, averaging a career-high 27.9 points per game. DeMar is off to another phenomenal start, and his former teammates will have the challenge of slowing him down. Keldon Johnson should receive this assignment, so keep an eye on this head-to-head matchup between two physical players who love to get to the rim.

For the Bulls fans’ perspective, please visit Blog a Bull.

The Game Thread will be up this evening for those of you who want to chat throughout the matchup. You can also follow along with the action on PtR’s Twitter feed.