The San Antonio Spurs (46-9) will conclude their Rodeo Road Trip when they face the Chicago Bulls (37-16) tonight in Chicago at the United Center.
The Spurs are coming off a win against the New Jersey Nets (102 to 85) in New Jersey where Manu Ginobili led the way with 22 points.
The Bulls are also coming off a win against the Charlotte Bobcats (106 to 94) and will be looking to maintain their home court dominance this season as they are 24-4 at the United Center.
Both teams will be looking to head into the All-Star break with a win and to discuss tonight’s match up I turn to fellow Bloguinite Marco at Horns to the Hardwood. Your one and only stop on the Internet for all things Bulls.
In this Q&A, Marco talks about the Bulls flying under the radar, keys for the Bulls to beat the Spurs and more. Check out my Q&A I did for Marco by clicking HERE.
Jeff: So many focus on the Celtics, Heat and Magic. Are people sleeping on the Bulls in the East?
Marco: People definitely are, except your John Hollinger’s of the world. Everyone is enamored with the Heat and the Celtics. The Heat get the attention for having 2 superstars and one good player on their team. The Celtics get the attention because they’re really good, and because Boston is ESPN’s child.
The Bulls sit at 37-16, two games back of the 1 seed in the East. Of those 53 games, the Bulls have only played 9 with their starting lineup in tact due to injuries to Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. And the biggest reason teams are sleeping on the Bulls is because you really don’t know how good Derrick Rose is until you see him everyday. He’s really picked up the load with Noah and Boozer out for extended stretches, and will carry them deep into the post-season.
What’s the latest on Joakim Noah and his injury?
Sounds like Joakim is progressing quite well. The news is that he should be back after the ASB. He’s just started shooting jump shots, and has been cleared for some contact activity in practice. The Bulls have done a great job with handling the injury, considering they’re playing well without him. That’s the scary part for the rest of the East – what do the Bulls become when Noah returns?
How would you assess Carlos Boozer’s play since joining Chicago? Likes? Dislikes?
Carlos has been a great signing. Obviously “tripping over a bag in his house” was tough at the start, but he came back and is really showing why he’s an All-Star caliber player. He’s a menace on the boards, plays pick and roll better than anyone in the NBA, and has a sweet jumper. He’s almost like a good tight-end in football – he’s a safety valve for the quarterback (in this case Rose). He’s a fun guy to be around, and teammates love him. The other part of Carlos that you don’t see in highlights is his limitations on defense, especially when he has a few fouls on him. He’s slow to rotate, doesn’t really provide any shot blocking ability, but his hands are quick, so that helps.
The Bulls have two former Spurs on the roster: Keith Bogans, and Kurt Thomas. Can you give an update on how they are working out for Chicago for Spurs fans reading this?
Kurt Thomas has been a savior in the wake of the Joakim Noah injury. Kurt has come in and has done everything asked of him, and a lot more. He just played in his 1,000th game, and to play in 1,000 games, you have to have a lot of great qualities. He hits mid-range jumpers on offense, and is a good passer. He takes charges on defense, and never backs down from quicker/bigger players. He rebounds well, and sets strong picks. These aren’t flashy characteristics, but it’s kept him in the league for 15 years, and without him, the Bulls would be in serious trouble. It’s great to have a guy that never complained about sitting behind two great big men, and then when he got his chance, he did everything necessary to help his team win.
Keith Bogans is the starting shooting guard, but plays less minutes than Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer combined. Bogans at one point was the worst player on the team from an efficiency standpoint. He’s since started to shoot the ball better, especially from the outside. The Bulls are 11-0 when he makes two three-pointers!
Earlier this season, the Spurs erased a 17-point deficit to win 103-94 in San Antonio. Both Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili led the way for San Antonio with 21, and 20 points respectively. Is the key for the Bulls to slow these two players down or is it something else?
I think the key for the Bulls is to keep Tony Parker out of the lane. When he’s able to get in the lane and create, the Spurs are lethal. Tony’s always in the top 3 guards in points in the paint. That’s a testament to his toughness, and his ability to get into the lane and finish. Couple that with his assist numbers, and he’s one of the best point guards in the league.
The Bulls will have a tough time guarding Manu, as he’s such a dynamic scorer. Brewer should have that assignment.
The Bulls are 2-11 when allowing their opponents to score over 100 points, so the key for the Spurs is to get to that century mark.
Who comes out with the victory tonight?
The Bulls are really tough at home, and are 24-4 at the United Center. The Spurs will be another measuring stick for the Bulls, but I think they come out ahead. I expect Derrick Rose to play well, but the key to most Bulls games is the play of Luol Deng. If he’s cutting, slashing and getting to the rim, the Bulls are a lot better. If the Spurs slow down Deng, it’s game over.