A winning streak will be on the line for the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday when they battle the Chicago Bulls at United Center.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Chicago Bulls
When: 9:30 PM ET, Thursday, December 8, 2016
Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
|511||SAN ANTONIO||3 (-110)||199 (-110)||-155
TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT, CSN Chicago
PREDICTION: Spurs 106, Bulls 101
Oddsmakers currently have the Spurs listed as 4½-point favorites versus the Bulls, while the game’s total is sitting at 201.
The San Antonio Spurs can match an NBA record for consecutive road wins to start a season if they defeat the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night at the United Center.
The Spurs are 13-0 and could tie the Golden State Warriors, who set the mark by going undefeated in their first 14 road games last season.
“It’s hard to win an NBA game, especially on the road,” reserve guard Patty Mills told Fox Sports Southwest after scoring 15 points in the Spurs’ 105-91 win Tuesday at the Minnesota Timberwolves. “Maybe that extra focus, knowing that we’re in another team’s building and (they’re) wanting to come out trying to beat us, there’s that little bit of extra focus or energy or effort, whatever it may be. But we can’t pinpoint (why) at the moment, and nor should we try to figure it out. Long season, I guess.”
It will also be a homecoming of sorts for Spurs center Pau Gasol, who played the past two seasons with the Bulls and signed with San Antonio as a free agent in the offseason.
Gasol, 36, has only missed one game for the Spurs (18-4). He’s averaging 11.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Gasol could give the post-challenged Bulls matchup problems, but Chicago will also need to dedicate a significant amount of focus on defending forward Kawhi Leonard.
San Antonio’s leading scorer (24.5 points per game) is coming off a 31-point performance against the Timberwolves, despite a slow start in that game. Leonard, 25, is averaging nearly four more minutes per game than his career average of 30.1 and scoring about 10 more points per game than his 14.9 career average.
“By this point in his career, he’s a confident player,” Spurs coach Gregg Poppovich told Fox Sports Southwest. “He knows he’s got a green light. We call his number now and then, but he does a lot of this stuff on his own, and he’s getting pretty good at pick-and-roll. So, he just advances his game every year a little bit in some fashion. Special young man.”
The Bulls (11-10) are coming off a 102-91 loss Tuesday at the Detroit Pistons, when they were outplayed in the fourth quarter after overcoming a 17-point deficit in the first half. Chicago has lost three straight games, four of its past five and is just 3-6 since winning four straight Nov. 10-17.
The Bulls have allowed 100-plus points in seven of those nine games.
“The problem is not on the offensive end,” guard Jimmy Butler told CSN Chicago. “(The Pistons) got whatever they wanted. We’re not defending the way we’re capable. We’re messing up assignments, not boxing out, not playing to guys’ weaknesses. We gotta fix it. All of these count early on. We have to turn this around.”
Butler is doing his part. The Bulls’ leading scorer scored 32 against the Pistons and is averaging 26 points a game. Over the past 10 games, Butler is averaging 27.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and 10.7 free-throw attempts.
He’s just not getting enough consistent help from Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo or others in the Bulls’ playing rotation. Rondo returned to the lineup against the Pistons after serving a one-game suspension for a reported altercation with an assistant coach.
Chicago also made a series of roster moves Wednesday involving the Windy City Bulls of the D-League. They recalled forward Doug McDermott from their D-League affiliate. They also recalled guard R.J. Hunter and rookie forward Pau Zipser after sending both to the D-League about two hours earlier.
The Spurs might not have veteran guard Tony Parker, who is questionable after bruising his knee in San Antonio’s 97-96 win Monday at the Milwaukee Bucks.