The San Antonio Spurs (46-9) travel to Chicago to take on the charging Bulls (37-16) in a battle of conference powers tonight. Do the Bulls stand any chance against an amazingly balanced attack that features eight players averaging between seven and 17 points per game, which include Matt Bonner, DeJuan Blair, Gary Neal, George Hill, Richard Jefferson, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Many Ginobili?
The Bulls will be without Joakim Noah, as they have been the last two months, which hurts them down low, as Noah is a solid defender and brings an extraordinary amount of energy to the team. Carlos Boozer, Kurt Thomas, Taj Gibson, and Omer Asik are going to have to incredibly step up their down low defensive efficiency if the Bulls want to contend with the NBA's top team.
Lately, Chicago's defense in the paint has been less than par, allowing 26 points to Al Jefferson, 42 points to LaMarcus Aldridge, 32 points to Blake Griffin, 40 points to Dwight Howard, 20 points to Josh McRoberts, and 30 points to Chris Douglas-Roberts in recent games.
Obviously, the Bulls need to improve their Noah-less defense in the paint to be prepared for the likes of DeJuan Blair and Tim Duncan, but what can the offense do? Derrick Rose, as usual, will be the key.
If Rose can beat Parker with one of the best first steps in the league, the Bulls should be able to score on the Spurs. However, he will need perimeter help from Kyle Korver, Luol Deng, Keith Bogans, and Ronnie Brewer. The Bulls will need to drive and kick, as Boozer and Gibson could have trouble scoring over Duncan and Blair.
Who is more surprising this year?
For the Spurs, the key to winning is much simpler. Play like you've played all year. Don't turn the ball over, play solid D, and force your opponent into mistakes. Get open shots for Ginobili, and let Duncan post up against Kurt Thomas or Carlos Boozer.
Either way, this game is an opportunity to make a statement before the All-Star break. The Bulls bring in the number three team in the East, while the Spurs have the rights over the best record in the league.
Prediction: 101-90 Spurs victory
I believe Rose, as well as many of the Bulls, will struggle with turnovers and that will be the difference in the game. However, predictions are just opportunities to make authors look stupid. It should be a quality game.
Just in case you missed it, the game starts at 8 p.m. Eastern Time on TNT.