As the 09-10 season continues and the Bulls enjoy playing with the emotions of all their fans, we must first pause and acknowledge the absence of our fallen hero, the White Panther. Godspeed Aaron Gray, the reaction shots of the bench will now have a giant, 400 lb void :(
Alas, there is a game tonight. I know, you are crying uncontrollably. But WE MUST FIGHT ON.
The Spurs spent their offseason making several moves that they hoped would bring them back into contention for a title. Another draft, another steal for RC Buford (DeJuan Blair). Another offseason acquiring veterans who could bring some balance to the roster (McDyess, Jefferson, Ratliff). However, they find themselves muddled in the West (there are only 3 games separating the 4th seed Portland with 9th place New Orleans). What happened?
Well, 2 of their Big Three just haven't been as incredible as in past years. Manu Ginobili is 32 and showing signs of decline. Still an efficient scorer and all-around nusiance to opposing teams, but just not as explosive as he once was. Tony Parker showed last year he could carry the Spurs when others were dropping like flies, but this season he just hasn't been scoring as efficiently, and you could make a case that Derrick is having a better season so far. Unfortunately, Tim Duncan is still a beast. He may not anchor the same elite defense (11th in the NBA), but he's posting a 27.4 PER at the age of 33. If any of you think Tim Duncan is boring, I hate you and wish leprosy on you.
No word yet on whether Joakim will play, and obviously given the matchups this could be a game where his absence can't be made up. Taj and Tyrus will have to play excellent post defense on Blair and limit his rebounding chances. I give Brad no chance to stop Duncan, so hopefully he can hit enough jumpshots to keep the defense honest. With Manu on the bench, Kirk should be able to help Rose defending Parker, and there really is no reason why Richard Jefferson should outplay Deng.
The outcome is pretty simple. If Noah plays, there's a good chance the Bulls could alter the magnetic poles and win 3 straight on the road. If he sits, then we could be in for a very frustrating game. Prediction, Bulls 130 Spurs 49.