The AT&T Center was occupied by cows, horses, sheep, rodeo clowns, and even Lady Antebellum but now the AT&T Center will finally be decorated with silver andblack from ground-up as the San Antonio Spurs (24-10) return for their first home game in 25 days. Though the building might still reek of livestock, the Spurs’ 13-1 home record they left with back on February 4th remains unaffected.
The Spurs face the second best team in the Eastern conference tonight, the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls are modeling themselves as a contender as they’re lead by MVP point guard Derrick Rose and tough tenacious defense.
Case No. 35: Chicago Bulls (28-8)
Road record: 14-6. Last 10 games: 8-2.
Commendable area for the Bulls
- 1st Assists (23.3)
- 2nd Opponents points (87.9), Rebounding (45.5), Offensive Rebounding (13.2)
- 4th Field goal percentage (46%)
- 5th Blocks (5.7), Three points percentage (38%)
- 9th Points (97.3)
- 25th Turnovers (13.7)
- 28th Personal fouls (17.5)
Like Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau is all about defense before any other element on the floor. Aside from ranking in the top of most defensive categories, the Bulls also hold their opponents to 42% shooting per game. The Bulls also have four players on their team who average a little more than one steal per game.
The offense is efficient as the Bulls go about nine “effective” players deep. Little turnovers are made, the ball is spread around, and the big men on the glass either keep possessions alive or score on their own with offensive rebounding.
Derrick Rose – 21.8 points, 7.7 assists, 17 FGA (46%), 4.2 3PT (32%), 5.8 FTA (82%)
Tony Parker and Rose just faced each other on Sunday in Orlando, though both didn’t play nearly as many minutes as they’ll play today, or didn’t guard each other as much as they’ll guard each other tonight.
Luol Deng – 15.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 14.4 FGA (42%)
With Kawhi Leonard out tonight, the Spurs are going to have some problems on the wing stopping Deng if Richard Jefferson has one of those quiet games.
Carlos Boozer – 15.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1 steal, 13.1 FGA (54%)
DeJuan Blair is coming off a 28-point performance against the Denver Nuggets before All-Star break, that game should have boosted his confidence level as he prepares to defend Boozers.
Richard Hamilton – 14.2 points, 13.6 FGA (45%)
Danny Green is rested andhas the young legs to chase Hamilton around screens tonight. Manu Ginobili is still out for the Spurs.
C.J. Watson – 10.4 points, 1.1 steals, 9.1 FGA (39%)
This is where missing Leonard and Ginobili could be a big problem for the Spurs. Watson is playing at a consistent level off of the bench for the Bulls, so if James Anderson is given minutes, it’ll be his turn to shine on the defensive end.
Joakim Noah – 9.5 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 7 FGA (50%)
Noah versus a rested Tim Duncan will be a good-tough matchup to watch for in the paint.
Kyle Korver – 7.7 points, 6 FGA (43%), 4.1 3PT (41%)
Gary Neal is questionable to play tonight, but if he does, he and Korver could put on a shooting display outside of 23.9 feet.
Ronnie Brewer – 7.6 points, 1.1 steals, 7.1 FGA (43%)
Taj Gibson – 7.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, 6.1 FGA (51%)
Tiago Splitter is listed as questionable as well, but should he play, Gibson would be the player Splitter would need to get through. Matt Bonner will also make Gibson have to defend the entire court, as Bonner has been dangerous from behind the arc.
With the injury problems the Spurs are facing, taking down the Bulls will be a tough task. However, because the Spurs are poised and focused at home, this should be a great low scoring classic game.
One area that does concern me personally is the Spurs’ defensive liability against the, what I call, “head first” or “bull” type point guards. These types of guards have displayed a weakness in the Spurs’ defensive armor that not many teams have seen.
When you look back at January 20th, that was the last time the Spurs lost at the AT&T Center. One big reason was the play of Sacramento Kings guard Tyreke Evans who scored 23 points and collected seven assists while shooting (attacking) 10-of-19 times and getting to the free throw line three times.
The next game that showed this weakness was Valentine’s Day, February 14th. The Spurs were on their Rodeo Road Trip (8-1) when they visited Detroit. The Pistons almost made a comeback behind point guard Rodney Stuckey who also had 23 points and eight assists. Stuckey shot 8-of-12 that night and got to the free throw line five times.
If Rose is in attack mode, this could be a huge concern for the Spurs as Rose usually attempts 5.8 free throws per game. As much as this younger Spurs team has found a new defensive identity, they’re still missing that smaller guard who could stop those “head first” type point guards that get to the line so frequently.
Parker isn’t a defensive stopper type point guard, Green isn’t as quick as a point guard, Neal is usually a step-behind, and even when he returns to full health, T.J. Ford isn’t big enough to be that guy.
The only remedy that I’ve seen that works against this type of play is a big night from Parker. If Parker can stay in attack mode and keep scoring, it keeps his opponent busy with focusing on defense, instead of using those energy bursts to attack the rim on offense.
The Frenchman whose name has been put in the MVP conversation for the first half of the season, ultimately, could be the biggest reason on whether the Spurs either win their 25th game of the season, or lose their 11th.