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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Chicago Bulls

San Antonio looks to secure their longest winning streak of the season against Chicago.

San Antonio Spurs v Chicago Bulls Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs find themselves on their second winning streak of the season with wins over the Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Hornets. It’s their first winning streak since beating the Phoenix Suns back-to-back in late-October. On the second game of a back-to-back, they’ll host the Chicago Bulls with an opportunity to extend their winning streak to three games.

Chicago has the Spurs number this season. They defeated San Antonio twice in December, both time rather convincingly. They will also be on the second game of a back-to-back after losing to the Golden State Warriors on Friday 140-131. Because Victor Wembanyama is on a minutes restriction and he played on Friday, he’s set to be unavailable for the matchup with Chicago.

San Antonio Spurs (7-30) vs. Chicago Bulls (18-22)

January 13, 2024 | 7:30 PM CT

Watch: KENS5 | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Do not need to report injuries until 1 p.m. CT

Bulls Injuries: Do not need to report injuries until 1 p.m. CT

What to watch for

Offensive operation without Wembanyama

The Spurs operate their offense through Wembanyama. Whether it’s getting the big man the ball on the low block, or using him in the pick and roll, he is the focal point of the offense. The rookie has amassed a 30.1% usage rating to start the season. Since he will miss the game in Chicago, how will the Spurs run offense?

With Tre Jones in the starting five, it will likely mean a high dosage of pick and roll, and a lot of plays run for Devin Vassell. Dominick Barlow has played well, and could fill in for starters minutes. Alternatively, the Spurs could go super small, play Jeremy Sochan at the five and put Malaki Branham in the starting five. Either way, the Spurs will have to play a different style of ball without Wembanyama.

Winning the battle inside

Chicago had dominated the Spurs in the paint this season. Both scoring inside and rebounding have been far too easy for the Bulls. That will be made worse by the absence of Wembanyama. Barlow has protected the paint well, but the Spurs are thin behind him. They’ll rely on Sandro Mamukelashvili and Mamadi Diakite to play center minutes.

Chicago had brusiers in Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond. San Antonio will have to play one of their toughest games to keep those two out of the paint and off the glass.

Stopping Coby White

There is a new sheriff in Chicago, and his name is Coby White. White led the Bulls in scoring both games against the Spurs this season, and averages 18.5 points, 4.9 assists and shoots 40.2% from three-point range. San Antonio has struggled to contain lead guards this season. Even in a blowout win over the Hornets, LaMelo Ball had 28 points. With Sochan likely occupied with guarding DeMar DeRozan, it’ll fall on Vassell, Jones and Blake Wesley to slow White down.