Bulls-Spurs Preview

The San Antonio Spurs won 12 of their last 13 games heading into
the All-Star break. A lengthy stay at the AT&T Center would
appear to be a good opportunity to continue that surge.

The Spurs, though, must deal with both injuries and a few
potentially difficult matchups during their season-high seven-game
homestand beginning with Wednesday night’s game against the Chicago
Bulls.

San Antonio (24-10) entered the break with a 3 1/2-game
Southwest Division lead over Dallas and Houston thanks to its
recent play. The Spurs, who are 13-1 this season, went 8-1 on a
season-high nine-game road trip that concluded last Thursday with a
114-99 victory at Denver.

“Being at home, we don’t want to take anything for granted. It
doesn’t mean much if you don’t play competitively,” coach Gregg
Popovich said. “We competed well and played together. We’ve got to
duplicate that at home.”

The Spurs are not yet expected to have Manu Ginobili back from a
strained left oblique that’s kept him out of the past three games.
Ginobili, who also missed 22 games with a broken left hand earlier
this season, was limited in practice Tuesday.

Kawhi Leonard (calf tightness) might also sit out, while Gary
Neal (hamstring) and Tiago Splitter (calf) will be game-time
decisions, Popovich said.

T.J. Ford, though, might play for the first time since injuring
his left hamstring during a Jan. 10 loss at Milwaukee. If he
returns, he’d likely draw the difficult task of trying to contain
Bulls All-Star Derrick Rose.

The point guard helped Chicago (28-8) survive a challenge from
visiting New Orleans on Tuesday and post a third consecutive win,
99-95. Rose finished with 32 points and scored six of the game’s
final eight to help his team rally from a late four-point
deficit.

“We definitely held it together. Other teams I guess would have
folded,” Rose said. “We played toward the end I think the best
defense we played throughout the whole game. We rebounded the ball,
made great plays on the ball. … We gave ourselves a chance.”

The win allowed the Bulls to pull within percentage points of
Miami atop the Eastern Conference. It also helped them improve to
5-1 when fielding the starting lineup of Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim
Noah, Carlos Boozer and Richard Hamilton, who returned from a sore
right thigh Tuesday.

Noah sat out the most recent matchup with the Spurs last
February but Rose more than made up for his absence with a
then-career high 42 points in a 109-99 victory. He matched that
mark in Indiana on March 18 and scored 44 in a playoff win over
Atlanta in May.

Rose scored 33 at San Antonio on Nov. 17, 2010, but it wasn’t
enough in Chicago’s 103-94 defeat. Tony Parker, who won the
All-Star skills challenge last weekend, had a team-best 21 points
in that game and has averaged 22.3 on 59.2 percent shooting over
his last three matchups with the Bulls.

The Spurs point guard has also averaged 23.0 points and shooting
63.8 percent in his last three home games versus Chicago.

That’s helped San Antonio win 10 of its last 12 home matchups in
this series. One of those losses was recent, however, as the Bulls
prevailed 98-93 on Jan. 25, 2010, on the strength of 27 points from
Rose.

The reigning league MVP has is averaging 34.0 points and
shooting 59.0 percent in his last three games against the
Spurs.