San Antonio Spurs at Chicago Bulls
Time: 8 PM ET (NBA TV)
Spread: SAS -4
Betting odds c/o Bovada
The Machine that is San Antonio Spurs basketball continues to function as it has. The Spurs take the top-rated defense and a 14-3 record to the United Center to face the 9-5 Chicago Bulls in a game oddsmakers at Bovada are favoring the Spurs by 4 points. With two stringent defenses, the over/under is set at 189.
The Bulls have not been clicking offensively and the Spurs have won 11 of its past 12 games while surrendering just 89.7 points per game. The Spurs have held eight teams under 84 points this season, and seem to have a renewed focus after last season’s disappointments. San Antonio held the Atlanta Hawks to just 42.5 percent shooting in a 108-88 home win on Saturday, and the Hawks had been averaging 106.4 over its five previous games.
LaMarcus Aldridge has proven as defensively valuable as he is for his excellent mid-range shooting. He has given the Spurs a top-notch player to insert at the 4-spot and allowed Boris Diaw to shift more comfortably to the bench.
The Spurs are a team still priding itself on its depth, with nine Spurs averaging five points per game or more. Even David West who came on a vet min deal has played 15 valuable minutes a night while averaging five points and three boards per game.
The real revelation has been that Kawhi Leonard is the superstar we have billed him to be. He received a max-contract over the summer and is now logging the minutes and tallying the numbers to fully justify it. The 2014 Finals MVP has averaged 22 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.32 blocks/steals per game in 34.4 minutes a night. Aldridge has seen his minutes reduced to 30 per game, but he is still putting up 14.9 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, while Tim Duncan’s role has remained steady as a 10 point and nine rebound per game force.
The Bulls have lost two of its past three with a win over Portland sandwiched between a 104-92 defeat to the Pacers and a 106-94 loss to Golden State at Oracle.
Jimmy Butler is Chicago’s top threat, but he has not offset the disappointments of Derrick Rose enough this year. Rose is good for just 13.6 points per game while shooting 36.3 percent from the field, and he really needs to be able to assert himself as a strong shooter being a shadow of himself once athletically.
Pau Gasol has struggled in his own right, hitting just 42.7 percent from the field. Butler is one of three rotation players shooting above 45 percent from the floor, with even the sharpshooting Nikola Mirotic hitting just 39 percent form the floor and 34 percent from three-point range.
Mirotic came on strong towards the end of the 2014-15 season and made the First team All-Rookie selections, but he has been struggling in a an aptly named “sophomore slump.” The entire Bulls contingent is playing a notch below where it was last season, and it is difficult to imagine the Bulls contending with the Cleveland Cavaliers in any playoff scenario.
The Bulls are trying to find a source of offense it can rely on, and Butler is taking less shots than Derrick Rose per game. This, in addition to getting little from the lower part of the rotation, has given Chicago a nominal chance when teams go on runs.
The Bulls can stay there with better teams like Golden State but utterly lack the firepower to put a 48-minute dominant performance together. That, if nothing else, limits Chicago’s ability to truly contend in a league so heavy in top-end talent. When games are on the line, the Bulls have Rose to pretend he is a closer, while LeBron James and Stephen Curry show Rose how it is done.