Despite having two of their big three on the DL at the moment, the San Antonio Spurs are in better from than anyone else in the NBA, becoming the first team to reach 40 wins. The Chicago Bulls have also been dealing with injuries, but the pieces are falling back into place, hoping the defense follows suit.
The Bulls are ranked third in the NBA in points allowed (91.7 per game) and opponents field goal percentage, keeping teams at 43.3% from the field. However, during their recent road trip, the Bulls haven’t been able to keep teams from scoring as well as they usually do, partially because of the absentees, giving up 109.3 points and a 52.9% percentage from the field over their last three games. The last one, a 93-89 win in Utah, was more like the Bulls we’ve been seeing for most of the season.
The return of Boozer, Deng and Noah has pushed Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson back to the bench, but if the two guys can make an impact in fewer minutes on both ends of the floor, it’s likely that the Bulls won’t have so many ups and downs in their defensive execution.
For the Spurs, it’s been about a team following one man. There’s the whole Tony Parker MVP discussion recently. There’s no chance Parker, averaging 20.7 points and 7.7 assists this season, is going to edge out Kevin Durant or LeBron James for the award. These things don’t happen, unless there’s a very efficient media campaign going on. However, the main reason the Spurs have won 13 of their last 14, while Duncan has missed 8 games and Manu Ginobili has missed the last four, has been Parker’s ability.
Not just – Tiago Splitter has certainly picked up his game in recent games, no longer being mentioned as part of a trade with Al Jefferson. Kawhi Leonard has been exceptional as well, scoring four more points per game over the last 10 games than his season average, but still, it begins and ends with Tony Parker playing the best basketball of his career.
The Spurs have dropped four of the last five meetings with the Bulls, including both in Chicago during that stretch. Parker hit only 5 of 16 from the field and scored 11 points in a 96-89 home loss in the most recent meeting Feb. 29.
Prediction – The Spurs aren’t the best of defensive teams, because they usually don’t have to. The big battle will be in the rebounding, and keeping the Bulls, one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the NBA, off their glass. If they manage to avoid giving Boozer, Noah and Deng second-shot opportunities, their whirlwind pace on offense should do the trick.