A couple weeks ago, the San Antonio Spurs beat the Chicago Bulls in Chicago despite playing without Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Stephen Jackson. On Wednesday night in San Antonio, the Bulls will try to turn the tables on the Spurs and steal a road win with an extremely short-handed roster.
In addition to star guard Derrick Rose, Chicago will likely be without Kirk Hinrich (toe), Richard Hamilton (back spasms) and Taj Gibson (knee) due to injuries. Carlos Boozer missed practice on Tuesday for a personal matter, but he's expected to play against San Antonio.
Injuries have been a problem all season for the Bulls, who have also seen All-Stars Joakim Noah and Luol Deng miss time at different points. Hinrich's health woes have been especially notable, as he has suffered seven different injuries this season. Without Rose around and the erratic Nate Robinson in place as the third-string point guard, Hinrich's constant string of injuries have hurt.
But even with all the injury problems, Chicago has still managed a 34-26 record, good for fourth in the Eastern Conference. The team's gritty play has helped keep them competitive in most games, something that was on full display when they lost to the Central Division-leading Indiana Pacers by just five points on Sunday despite being without Rose, Hinrich, Hamilton and Gibson. The Bulls appeared on the verge of getting blown out, but a rarely-used bench unit in the second quarter helped keep them in it.
Chicago will need an even better effort on Wednesday if they want to have a chance against San Antonio, which has averaged 122 points in its last two wins.
Despite being led by an aging trio of Ginobili, Duncan and Parker, who will be out for the next few weeks with an injury of his own, San Antonio continues to dominate opponents with a deep, balanced attack. Since Feb. 8, the team has lost just two games, both in overtime.
Wednesday's game begins at 9 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ESPN.
Playing the minutes game
Considering the circumstances of the game, Wednesday night should be a nice exercise in philosophical differences between Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, as Pounding the Rock notes.
Two of the best coaches in the league, Pop and Thibs have taken radically different approaches to reaching that level, particularly in terms of their respective player rotations. Both coaches take advantage of quality play from their reserves, but there are few better ways to differentiate the two than how they use their star players.
Putting age aside for a moment, the Bulls have two of the most-used players in the league, Deng and Noah, plus another 30-minutes-a-night guy in Carlos Boozer. Compared to San Antonio, which doesn't have a single guy averaging over 30 minutes a night with Parker out, the contrasting styles are readily apparent.
Few teams in the NBA are conditioned as well as the Bulls, but keeping up with a deep Spurs team will be a major challenge Wednesday.