The 1-0 San Antonio Spurs hit the road for a contest against the 0-1 Chicago Bulls today in a matchup between two teams with much different talent levels (8pm ET Saturday).
Chicago gutted its roster in the offseason to begin a full rebuild, and it won’t even be playing close to a full squad Saturday. Injured guard (and possibly the team’s best player) Zach LaVine is recovering from an ACL tear, and rotation big men Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis will also be out. The two power forwards got into a fight at practice: Mirotic suffered broken bones in his face from the incident, and Portis is serving a suspension for his actions.
San Antonio is also shorthanded, minus superstar Kawhi Leonard and veteran point guard Tony Parker. Even so, the Spurs have a large advantage with their veteran roster.
Which team will come away victorious today? We’ll examine the questions that will determine the game’s outcome and then decide ultimately how the contest will turn out, culmination in our preview’s betting predictions and picks.
Can the Bulls’ Bench Keep Pace Against the Spurs’ Bench?
The Spurs always have one of the best benches in the league, and this season is certainly no exception. Head coach Gregg Popovich finds the right talent that fits together well on the court, and then he develops that talent. Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, Rudy Gay and former Bull Joffrey Lauvergne are the heart of the unit this season.
Meanwhile, the Bulls’ bad bench unit is now even worse than it would’ve been with their injuries and suspension. Denzel Valentine, Cristiano Felicio, Kay Felder, David Nwaba and Quincy Pondexter are the key reserves in Chicago.
There’s a clear difference in talent and name recognition among those players, but effort and smart play from the Bulls could close that gap on Saturday.
Does Lauri Markkanen Have the Strength to Deal With LaMarcus Aldridge or Pau Gasol in the Post?
In the starting lineup, Chicago has lanky 20-year-old rookie Markkanen playing power forward. He’ll either have to guard Aldridge or Gasol, both strong veterans who love to back down smaller defenders in the post.
Markkanen surely loses the strength battle against either of these guys. He’s 7’0” and a very slender 225 pounds with relatively short arms. His best end of the floor is offense, by a wide margin.
Somehow, Markkanen will need to prevent San Antonio’s two veteran bigs from repeatedly pushing him around down low. It won’t be easy, but maybe he can make up for some of that by forcing them to run him off the three-point line with hot shooting.
Who Wins the Matchup of the Inexperienced Point Guards?
Both teams are playing below-average point guards who have started a combined 44 games in their NBA careers. The Bulls’ Jerian Grant is 25 years old and has struggled in the NBA so far, while the Spurs’ Dejounte Murray is a 21-year-old who seems to be hitting his stride in the league.
Grant has 6’4” size with athleticism, and he makes pretty good decisions, but he doesn’t have many other key strengths. Murray is even longer (6’5” with a 6’11” wingspan) and makes up for mediocre shooting and sloppy ball-handling with defensive effort and strong finishing at the rim.
Decision-making and effort from these two in initiating the offense and defending at the point of attack with be key in tonight’s matchup.
Our Preview’s San Antonio Spurs vs. Chicago Bulls Betting Picks & Predictions
The Bulls are probably the worst team in the NBA right now, at least until LaVine, Mirotic and Markkanen return. The Spurs, meanwhile, still have plenty of solid NBA talent without Leonard and Parker. We saw how it worked out on Wednesday when they pulled away from the Minnesota Timberwolves in the fourth quarter.
I don’t see the Bulls’ weak second unit being able to keep up with the Spurs’ vaunted bench.
- All top American-friendly online betting sites favor the Spurs by 9.5 points. Our pick is to bet Spurs -9.5pts @ -108 betting odds with BetOnline, as the other bookies are -110. You should feel confident that the Spurs will win by at least 10.
- The sportsbooks largely have 202.5pts as the over-under for Spurs-Bulls, though there is currently one exception at 202pts. Pace of play has shot way up league-wide this year, and it seems like the oddsmakers are still picking up on that. The Bulls will know that their only way to win this game is by making the Spurs uncomfortable with a fast pace. Our prediction is to go over 202pts @ -110 with BetOnline.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.