This is going to be a rough one.
The Spurs (8-1) have one of the best records in the league. They rank 2nd in PPG (108.9), 3rd in Offensive Rating (111.8), 6th in Pace (96.3) and 8th in Defensive Rating (103.8).
That said, the record could be mildly deceiving. Their one loss was to the Hornets (8-1), while their eight wins have been against the Pacers (4-5), Clippers (1-10), Suns (6-4), Rockets (3-7), Bobcats (4-7), Clippers (again), Sixers (2-9) and Thunder (6-4).
They barely beat Phoenix 112-110 during the Suns’ rough 1-3 start and the Rockets took them to overtime before the Spurs prevailed 124-121. San Antonio’s most convincing win was their most recent outing, a 117-104 victory in Oklahoma City. Of course, the Thunder have been all over the map during their first 10 games.
Still, even if their first eight wins were against opponents that have a combined record of 27-56, the Bulls will still have their work cut out for them. Especially on the second night of back-to-back road games.
The Spurs like to run and they rank 6th in Effective Field Goal Percentage at .521 (the Bulls are 7th at .520). They also get to the line, ranking 8th in Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt.
This isn’t your older brother’s Spurs. Instead of slowing the pace and pounding the ball in to Tim Duncan, they motor up and down the court, using Duncan in relief when the offense bogs down. As a result, Timmy is setting new career-lows in PPG (13.4), MPG (29.4) and Player Efficiency Rating (18.7). That said, he’s still averaging 8.9 RPG and 2.0 BPG. Make no mistake. Duncan is still a force to be reckoned with.
Speaking of forces to be reckoned with, Manu Ginobili (21.3 PPG, 40% on threes, 92% at the line 4.3 APG, 1.8 SPG) is having his best season and Tony Parker (18.3 PPG, 51% shooting, 7.7 APG, 2.2 SPG) isn’t far behind. And Richard Jefferson (17.6 PPG, 56% shooting) looks reborn.
Still, although the Spurs are 8th in D-Rating, they rank only 17th in Opponents Effective Field Goal Percentage (.497) compared to the Bulls 7th place ranking (.483). They can be scored on. However, they take care of their defensive glass (6th in Defensive Rebounding Percentage) and manage to guard people without fouling (4th in Opponents Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempts).
If the Bulls are going to have any chance against a talented, veteran team like the Spurs — especially on the road on the second night of back-to-backs — they’re going to have to shoot a high percentage (obviously), crash the boards at both ends (again, obviously) and they absolutely, positively must take care of the basketball.
Chicago ranks 23rd in Turnover Percentage. Last night, the Bulls gave up 29 points off 20 turnovers. Against the Rockets, the Bulls were aided by injures (Houston was without Aaron Brooks and Yao Ming) and saved by Derrick Rose catching fire in the fourth quarter. This team will get hammered by the Spurs if they don’t keep control of the ball.
Like I said, it’s going to be rough. History is against the Bulls, and I’m not just talking about how they’ve done on the circus trip since MJ retired in ’98. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Chicago is 9-26 (.257) all-time on the road against the Spurs. That’s the Bulls’ worst road record against any NBA team.