Spurs-Bulls Preview

Update: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Stephen Jackson are all out tonight for San Antonio. Joakim Noah is in the starting line-up for Chicago.

San Antonio Status Check:
Record: 40-12
Division: 11-2
Conference: 22-8
Road Record: 18-10
Last 10 Games: 9-1
Streak: Won 1
Last game: 111-89 win over Brooklyn
PPG: 104.1 (4th)
Opponents PPG: 95.9 (9th)
Offensive Rating: 109.7 (5th)
Defensive Rating: 100.8 (3rd)
Pace: 94.2 (6th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .541 (2nd)
Turnover Percentage: .140 (17th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .748 (3rd)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .204 (30th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .202 (19th)
Opp. eFG%: .477 (4th)
Opp. TO%: .139 (12th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .179 (3rd)
Leading scorer: Tony Parker (20.7)

Stats from Basketball-Reference

San Antonio Injury Report:
Tim Duncan: doubtful (sprained knee/sprained ankle)
Manu Ginobili: doubtful (hamstring)

Overview:
The Bulls go from one of the hottest teams in the NBA to the struggling Jazz to…one of the hottest teams in the NBA. The Spurs have lost just twice in the past month. Chicago lost twice last week. San Antonio, just like Chicago, is going through some injury issues though.

Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are doubtful for tonight, and may be out past the All Star break for the Spurs, according to some reports.

“It’s just about their health,” Gregg Popovich said. “We need to have those guys healthy and energetic at the end of the year. Things work a whole lot better with them than without them. With [Tim's] knee and Manu’s hamstring, I’m not gonna take any chances. If I err, it’s going to be on the side of caution.”

Popovich is arguably (and in my opinion is) the best coach in the NBA. It’s interesting what his opinion and mindset is compared to Tom Thibodeau’s, another great coach. Pop is of the belief that getting to the playoffs healthy is more important than winning every regular season game. Thibs is the exact opposite. Pop has been a head coach longer and has also won a bunch of championships.

Through Thibs’ reign, the Bulls have had multiple guys play through injuries. That isn’t all Thibs’ fault, as the popular hashtag #FredClearedHim shows, but the mindsets are no doubt opposite. Pop couldn’t care about a one seed; he knows health is the most important thing. Thibs wants to win every single game, for better or worse. That’s why Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are sitting and Joakim Noah is playing. Jo may miss on the All Star game, but he is making that plantar worse playing both games in a back-to-back.

Noah played 34 minutes against Utah on Saturday night, struggling through every one of them. He finished with a double-double (12 points, eleven rebobunds), but didn’t shoot well (3-8). It’s clear he isn’t fully healthy, and it’s questionable whether he’s doing more damage than good right now. I find it hard to believe Jo would be back right now if the Bulls still had Omer Asik. Or any able-bodied center for that matter.

Jo—and everyone else on the Bulls—also got dominated by Al Jefferson. Utah’s center scored 32 points on 15-22 shooting and added 13 boards, two blocks and two steals. Paul Millsap hurt the Bulls too (21 points, 8-14 FG), but Chicago did a good job stopping everyone else.

Randy Foye was the next highest scorer, with 14 points, but shot 4-11. Marvin Williams scored just three points and Jamaal Tinsley seemed afraid to shoot, and thus ended up scoreless.

One of the keys was that the Bulls made 16 of their 18 free throws, while Utah went 11-17. Another was that they were finally able to play their high paid power forward in the fourth. Thibs trusted Carlos Boozer, and it paid off, as Boozington scored 11 of his 19 points in the final quarter.

Sidenote: Jimmy Butler had a bummer of a game, logging 13 minutes and no other stats except a missed shot. Hopefully this was just a fluke in Jimmy’s young, promising career.

San Antonio, short-handed and all, pulled away from Brooklyn in the second half, outscoring the Nets 60-29 in the third and fourth. Tony Parker led the way for the Spurs, as usual, dropping 29 points and dishing eleven assists. The Spurs shot 58.9 percent from the field and 63.2 percent from deep. This was all without Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.

Parker is going to cause a big problem tonight, as Nate Robinson will have trouble staying in front of him. Kirk Hinrich is still out for the Bulls, which leaves just Nate and Marquis Teague. That’s a match-up I am dreading.

But one I do want to see is Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard. Butler and Leonard are pretty similar, young guys that do everything for their team. They are both great rebounders, especially for their size, finish well at the rim, defend well and hustle. Leonard’s PER is 15.51. Jimmy’s is 15.31.

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