The San Antonio Spurs, the best road team in the NBA, come into Chicago to take on the second best home court defenders in the league, the Bulls. The aforementioned south Texas team (the keepers of the top home court record as well) will wrap up their current nine-game rodeo swing tonight at the United Center led by coach Gregg Popovich, the now longest tenured head man in pro hoops.
The Bulls lost to San Antonio on November 17th at the AT&T Center 103-94 in the season’s tenth game. Ninth-year bruising vet Carlos Boozer had yet to play for first-year Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau at that point, however the blocking, boarding, bouncing and bumping Joakim Noah did his thing to the tune of 10 points and 14 rebounds in the that first of two meetings between these teams. So with Noah out until after the All-Star Break, Boozer will see if he can contain and contend with the Spurs’ big men in the paint this evening. Chicago currently sits 2.5 games behind the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference at 37-16. The four-time NBA Champion Spurs lead the entire league at 46-9 and are a healthy 7 games ahead of the second best team in the Western Conference, the Dallas Mavericks.
Coach Thibodeau came to Chicago during the off-season after having served as Doc Rivers’ lead assistant and defensive guru in Beantown for the previous three years. The Bulls are allowing the second fewest points against in the NBA at 92.3, and when above average shot-blocker Noah returns look for that number to slide even lower. Chicago played and won at home on Tuesday against Paul Silas’ Charlotte Bobcats 106-94. Seventh-year forward Luol Deng led the Bulls with 24 points and third-year All-Star starting point guard Derrick Rose had 13 dimes, while first-year Bull Boozer had 9 boards.
San Antonio went to New Jersey on Monday and exited the Turnpike State with a 102-85 victory, where they outscored the Nets in every quarter. All-Star Manu Ginobili had 22 points and Tim Duncan, the 14 year ALL-WORLD big man, had 11 glass cleanings in the mismatch. A victory tonight against the Spurs would leave the Second City-ers only three wins short of their entire total last year, when they finished even at 41-41 and made the postseason as the East’s 8th seed before losing 4-1 to LeBron and the Cavaliers In the first round. Coincidentally, a win tonight for San Antonio would leave them only three games from equaling their 2010 season win total. The Spurs finished last year at 50-32 and were swept in the West semis 4-0 by Phoenix. As we head into the All-Star break, both sides of tonight’s highly anticipated East-West matchup look poised to advance one win closer to these benchmarks. My playoff partner Dick Stockton will join me on the sidelines for the San Antonio Spurs vs. Chicago Bulls at 8:00 PM ET on TNT.