Posted February 11, 2013 on AP on Fox
Whether or not Tim Duncan or Manu Ginobili are able to return for Monday night's matchup with the Chicago Bulls, the San Antonio Spurs seem to be in good hands with Tony Parker running the show. The red-hot point guard looks to help San Antonio earn a 13th victory in 14 games when it faces a Chicago team returning home after an up-and-down road trip. Duncan has missed eight of the last 10 games nursing a sore left knee, while Ginobili has sat out four straight with tightness in his left hamstring. Coach Gregg Popovich has made clear he will not rush back two of his key players, and it's unknown if either will be able to play Monday. Parker, though, shouldered the load once again Sunday, scoring 29 points and adding 11 assists in a 111-86 victory over Brooklyn - the third of a franchise-record nine straight road games. He had 31 points and eight assists in each of the two previous games - including Friday's loss in Detroit that ended an 11-game winning streak - and is averaging 27.2 points and shooting 62.7 percent from the field over his last six. Popovich thinks Parker is making a case for MVP in the process. ''I think he should be in every conversation for any award that's going to be given,'' Popovich said. ''I don't think that is really tough to see. I mean, there's a group of guys, but he should be in that group as one of the guys that's playing the best in the league.'' Parker still would like to have his teammates back as soon as possible. ''I don't care about getting my due and stuff like that,'' Parker said. "I definitely prefer to have Timmy and Manu because that's how you win championships. You need a whole team and I prefer winning championships than having my due.'' San Antonio (40-12), though, has dropped four of the last five meetings with the Bulls, including both in Chicago during that stretch. Parker hit only 5 of 16 from the field and scored 11 points in a 96-89 home loss in the most recent meeting Feb. 29. The Bulls (30-20) are in the midst of playing 10 of 12 games away from the United Center, though they'll get a break from the road after splitting a six-game road trip. After winning two of the first three, Chicago lost by 10 points to Indiana on Monday before being routed by Denver 128-96 on Thursday. It recovered for a 93-89 win over Utah on Friday behind Carlos Boozer's team-high 19 points. ''We needed to bounce back,'' coach Tom Thibodeau said. ''We took a punch (Thursday), but we got up and fought. You can't look backwards, you can't look ahead, you have to look at exactly what is in front of you.'' The road ahead doesn't get any easier, though. After facing the Spurs, the Bulls will play at surging Boston on Wednesday before the All-Star break and have dates with Miami (Feb. 21) and Oklahoma City (Feb. 24) looming this month. Thibodeau is hoping his team's defense improves sooner rather than later. Though Chicago ranks third in points allowed per game (91.7) and field-goal percentage defense (43.3), its opponents are averaging 109.3 points and shooting 52.9 percent over the last three games. San Antonio ranks second in field goal percentage (48.8) and fourth scoring 104.2 points per contest. "Obviously, we have a lot to clean up on our defense," Thibodeau said. "Our ball pressure has to be better."
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