TV: KENS, ESPN
Chicago (34 - 26)
San Antonio (47 - 14)
By CHRIS ALTRUDA
(AP) -- Playing without superstar point guard Derrick Rose all season, the Chicago Bulls won't have any pity for the San Antonio Spurs as they adjust to life without counterpart Tony Parker.
In turn, the Spurs will be non-plussed the Bulls may be without a few more regulars besides Rose on Wednesday night as Chicago comes to San Antonio.
Despite having the best record in the league, San Antonio (47-14) can't afford to dwell on Parker's sprained ankle and the estimated four weeks it will take him to recover as it still needs to hold off Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers for the best record in the Western Conference and reigning NBA champion Miami overall.
The Spurs have won four of five without Parker this season and in some ways, showed a completely revamped offense Monday in rolling past Detroit 114-75. All 13 players who entered the game scored and seven had at least three assists as San Antonio racked up 35 following a season-high 41 in the 130-102 win over Sacramento in which Parker got hurt.
"We moved the ball really well," said Tim Duncan, who matched a season high with six assists. "We have to with the lack of Tony's penetration, the way he does almost every play. We're going to move the ball and use a lot of pick-and-rolls. We're going to use a lot of body movement. Hopefully we can take advantage of that and make some shots and make some passes that make easy baskets for us, because we're going to need it."
Parker's replacement at the point - Cory Joseph - had eight points and four assists in 18 minutes in his first start of the season and second game since being recalled from the D-League.
"I thought he did a fine job," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Joseph. "He played a good floor game. I like his defense. I like his aggressive attitude, as far as loose balls and sticking his nose in. He's a really committed, physical player and runs the show well."
While Joseph likely will simply blend in as another cog in the Spurs' well-oiled machine, the Bulls (34-26) are trying to piece together their backcourt as Rose inches closer to returning from a torn ACL while Kirk Hinrich and Richard Hamilton try to fight their way through nagging injuries. The latter two did not play Sunday, when Chicago lost 97-92 at Indiana and dropped four games behind the Pacers in the Central Division.
Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson combined for 26 points as the starting guards, and Jimmy Butler picked up the slack with a career high-tying 20 off the bench. Still, the Bulls have lost nine of their last 12 against teams currently in the top eight in each conference, and not having injured forward Taj Gibson (sprained knee) also contributed to a 49-34 deficit in rebounds.
Coach Tom Thibodeau refused to make excuses for his short-handed squad, saying, "It's the NBA, we've got plenty in that locker room, we've got to get the job done."
Hinrich is doubtful for this game, while Hamilton did not make the trip and Gibson is not expected to play. Belinelli is averaging 14.5 points and shooting 42.4 percent from 3-point range in 15 games as a starter, while Robinson is averaging 13.1 points and 6.5 assists with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.81-to-1 in 16 starts.
The Bulls, though, are 5-11 when Robinson is among Chicago's starters.
Despite playing without Parker, Duncan and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs posted a 103-89 win at the United Center on Feb. 11 as Kawhi Leonard had a career-high 26 points. San Antonio overcame a 49-26 disadvantage on the boards by committing only eight turnovers and scoring 29 points off 19 miscues by the Bulls.
What I liked about yesterday's game is that they matched the defensive intensity of Chicago. They were flying on defense. Very encouraging for the playoffs. Of course, there's no guarantee it will work against Durant or Lebron.
The Spurs have to maintain a consistent intensity throughout the entire game, both offensively and defensively, to contend in a long series. Durant and James -- you could put a blindfold on both of them and they'll still hit all but net. And if James starts going to the low post on a more regular basis, we're all dead.
I dream of a day when a chicken can cross the road without having their motives questioned.
The focus should not even be on Durant or LBJ. No chance of stopping either of these guys. It's the Ibaka's and Martin's of the world as well as Wade and Bosh, etc. that should be the focus of the defense.
If Durant or LBJ can score 80 a night so be it. Shake their hands and congratulate them. But Ibaka can't go 11-11 or Martin get 25pts. That kills you.
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