The Spurs and Bulls are alike in that they are extremely well-coached and you know both clubs will be giving maximum effort every night. It's a credit to San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich and Chicago counterpart Tom Thibodeau that they get the best out of their talent.
The Bulls (33-30 ATS, 25-38 O/U at sportsbooks) are in the midst of a very tough six-game homestand, the team's longest stretch at home the rest of the season. The Bulls opened the set with an 85-77 home loss to Memphis but followed with a 95-88 overtime win over Miami on Sunday. After the Spurs visit, in comes Houston, Sacramento and Oklahoma City. Obviously only the Kings are a non-playoff club.
Joakim Noah, who deserves some NBA MVP votes, willed the Bulls to Sunday's victory over hated Miami. Noah has stated publicly he flat-out doesn't like the "Hollywood" Heat and he usually plays like it. He had 20 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and five blocks Sunday. He’s the first Bulls player since Scottie Pippen in 1995 to have a line of at least 20/10/5/5. D.J. Augustin added 22 points in the minor upset and Jimmy Butler played terrific defense on LeBron James, holding James to 8 of 23 shooting (2-for-11 when guarded solely by Butler) and only 17 points. Butler had a strip of James at the end of regulation as James was driving for the potential winning layup. Rather amazingly, LeBron didn't attempt a free throw for the first time in a game since Dec. 2, 2009. James wanted a foul called on that Butler strip but replays showed it was clean and a good no call. LeBron probably gets that call at home.
The Bulls generally handle their business against Miami in the regular season, especially at the United Center, but the Heat are able to raise their game in the playoffs and that's when Chicago's offensive shortcomings are obvious.
New Top Dog In West
San Antonio (30-32 ATS, 37-24-1 O/U at sportsbooks) has been off since beating visiting Orlando 121-112 on Saturday, the Spurs' sixth straight win and the closest margin of victory in that stretch. It was the fifth time in the six games that San Antonio scored at least 111 points and third with at least 120.
The Magic win could have been a major letdown game as it came after San Antonio's highly-charged 111-87 blowout of Miami on Thursday night. In fact, the Spurs admitted as much as they couldn't pull away from the terrible Magic (with all of four road wins) until late in the game. Tony Parker had 30 points and Manu Ginobili 24 to lead the Spurs. Parker largely abused Jameer Nelson as the Magic were without rookie Victor Oladipo, a good defensive player. Tiago Splitter returned to the starting lineup for San Antonio. He had been coming off the bench since returning from injury. Splitter had 14 points and six rebounds against Orlando. Boris Diaw went back to a reserve role Saturday but still played more minutes than Splitter.
Thanks to Oklahoma City's and Indiana's recent struggles, San Antonio has grabbed the best record in the NBA. Think they would have liked to have that home-court advantage last year in the Finals against the Heat? San Antonio is still the second-favorite at Bovada to win the West at 7/2 behind the Thunder (13/10).
Take a look at a comparison of the top NBA Championship betting lines!
On Jan. 29, the Bulls won 96-86 in San Antonio as 7.5-point underdogs on NBA odds. That was when San Antonio was playing its worst ball of the season as it was its third straight loss and fifth in seven games. Noah had 10 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and four blocks. Butler led seven Bulls in double figures with 19 points. Parker had 20 points and Tim Duncan 17 and 12 rebounds. The Spurs played without the injured Ginobili, Splitter, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. San Antonio was so thin it was forced to start Jeff Ayres, Nando de Colo and Othyus Jeffers. I can honestly say I've never heard of that last guy and I do this for a living. The Spurs did sweep the season series in 2012-13.
NBA free picks: I'll add the Bulls +4 and the under 188 points to our NBA picks for this match-up. San Antonio is 3-7 ATS in its past 10 against teams with a winning record, while the Bulls are 6-1 ATS in their past seven at home. The under is 10-2 in Chicago's past 12 against teams with a winning record.