Thanks to the incredible start by the Golden State Warriors, not many people are talking about the San Antonio Spurs (14-3, 5-3 Away). But that’s just the way they like it. The under-the-radar Spurs, who boast the NBA’s second-best record, will visit the United Center tonight (8:00 PM Eastern) to face the Chicago Bulls (9-5, 5-1 Home) in a riveting interconference matchup.
The Spurs head to Chicago on a five-game win streak, including a 108-88 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday. Kawhi Leonard had 22 points in the win while free agent acquisition LaMarcus Aldridge added 13 points and six rebounds.
While Leonard (22.0 PPG) and Aldridge (14.8 PPG) have kept the San Antonio offense efficient (99.4 PPG on 47.2-percent shooting), it’s been the defensive effort that has separated the Spurs in the early going. The team has held 13 opponents to less than 100 points per game, including the last five, and is averaging a league-best 89.7 points against per night.
“Usually we are a team that builds defensively, slowly,” guard Manu Ginobili told the Associated Press. “This year we started very well, very aggressively. The addition of LaMarcus gives us more size. He has quick feet to switch, to get in a better position quicker.”
The Chicago Bulls are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference at a respectable 9-5, but have been dominant at home, dropping just one game at the United Center so far (102-93 in OT to the upstart T-Wolves).
The team went just 2-2 on its recent four-game road trip, though, and were outplayed start to finish by the Pacers (104-92) on Friday. The Bulls’ usually staunch defense had no answer for Indiana’s Paul George, who put up 33 points on the night.
The Bulls didn’t play on the weekend and have played just three games in the last 11 nights, so they should at least be well-rested heading into tonight’s game. However, they don’t matchup well with the Spurs, who pound the glass and are near the top of the league in rebounding differential (+5.1). With Joakim Noah relegated to a bench role, the Bulls are struggling at -3.
Throw in the fact that San Antonio is 17-8 SU in its last 25 games against Chicago, and 12-5 ATS in their last 17 visits to the United Center, and the play seems pretty obvious in this one.
Pick: Spurs -3.5.
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison (Originally uploaded to Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/])