As the Chicago Bulls patiently await the return of Derrick Rose, tonight’s opponent recently saw its own point guard fall victim to injury. The Bulls will try and handle the Tony Parker-less Spurs when the two teams meet up tonight on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 7:30 with Bulls Pregame Live, hosted by Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gill.
Much like the Bulls a year ago when they opened the 2012 NBA Playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed, things were going almost perfectly for the San Antonio Spurs up until last weekend. They held the NBA’s best record, Tim Duncan’s resurgence continued at 36 years old and head coach Gregg Popovich was able to go 10 -- sometimes 11 -- players deep in his rotation.
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But the city of San Antonio held its collective breaths when Parker, playing like an MVP candidate until that point, suffered a Grade 2 sprained ankle last Friday against the Kings. He will miss up to four weeks, putting the Spurs back on the hot seat atop the Western Conference — Oklahoma City is just 2.5 games back, and the Los Angeles Clippers sit 4.5 games back.
The Spurs responded well in their first test without Parker, beating the Pistons at home by 39 on Sunday. They have been off since then and will be well-rested when they take on the Bulls tonight at the AT&T Center.
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San Antonio is no stranger to facing the Bulls short-handed. Without the services of Parker, shooting guard Manu Ginobili and Duncan all resting with injuries, the Spurs went into Chicago on Feb. 11 and came out with a 103-89 win.
The win spoke to the depth that San Antonio’s front office has built through years of successful drafting. The likes of Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, Danny Green, Gary Neal and Nando de Colo may not be household names, but they have kept the veteran-laden starting lineup fresh late in the season.
Those players will help fill the void left by Parker’s 21.0 points and 7.6 assists per game. In the win over Detroit, Cory Joseph started and played 18 minutes, while Patty Mills (16 minutes) and Nando de Colo (14 minutes) rounded out the 48 minutes. They combined for 17 points, 10 assists and just two turnovers, while Ginobili, a solid ball handler in his own right, added three assists in 22 minutes.
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The Spurs take a hit without their All-Star point guard, but their NBA-best depth will keep them as contenders until Parker can return to the lineup. The Bulls will need to be at their best defensively against a team capable of putting up 100-plus points on any given night, Parker or not.
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