Wednesday, March 29, 2023

NBA Preview: San Antonio Spurs (14-39) at Chicago Bulls (25-27)

Even as the deficit kept swelling on Saturday night, the Chicago Bulls maintained their resolve against the Portland Trail Blazers.

After allowing 43 points in the second quarter, the Bulls yielded just 17 in the third en route to a 129-121 home win against Portland.

Chicago coach Billy Donovan hopes the commitment and consistency the Bulls showed in erasing a 17-point deficit can be a catalyst. Monday’s visit from the struggling San Antonio Spurs, who begin a nine-game road trip, offers a chance to find out.

In addition to dialing up their defense when they needed it, the Bulls shot 60 percent from the floor and had 32 assists on 48 made baskets.

Chicago’s “Big Three” set the tone as the team won for the third time in four games. Zach LaVine scored 36 points, DeMar DeRozan followed with 27 and Nikola Vucevic had a double-double of 23 points and 11 rebounds.

San Antonio enters on an eight-game losing streak, the team’s fourth skid this season of at least five games.

The Spurs have been idle since Friday’s 137-125 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, which capped an 0-4 homestand.

To San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, the 76ers’ ability to capitalize off his team’s 18 turnovers proved the deciding factor.

Among the bright spots was rookie Malaki Branham, who scored a season-best 26 points to eclipse his previous high of 22 set two nights earlier.

What’s been the catalyst for Branham’s surge?

Host San Antonio edged Chicago 129-124 on Oct. 28 in the first meeting between the teams this season. Keldon Johnson and DeRozan scored 33 points to pace their respective teams on a night DeRozan surpassed 20,000 career points while playing against his former club.

Seven Spurs finished in double figures.

San Antonio has won four of the past five games between the teams. The Bulls won 120-109 on Feb. 14, 2022.

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