New York Knicks @ Chicago Bulls -8.5
The Bulls disappointed convention media wisdom in their loss to the New York Knicks Sunday on ABC. The standard line for the past four weeks has been “if this Bulls are this good without Derrick Rose, then once he returns they are hands-down the best team in the league.” It makes sense in theory, but the real-life equation is seldom that simple. It is not simply an addition of offense and talent, rather it involves a redistribution of shot and playmaking opportunities over the course of the forty eight minute game. This isn’t to say that Derrick Rose’s return isn’t a great thing, but simply to point out the instant seismic improvement is far from automatic; it will take some time to reintegrate Rose and his teammates.
Sunday was an excellent example of this. The reigning MVP shot just 8 of 26 in his return and committed a game-high eight turnovers. In this case, despite some brilliant flashes in the third quarter, he was more responsible for the loss than any other Bull. That isn’t even accounting for his pair of game winning misses, both in regulation and overtime.
If all that sounds like fuel for the quiet assassin Rose’s tank tonight, you are probably right. Expect a very focused and determined Rose to take the floor tonight for Chicago. I think Vegas has that retribution theme in mind when they set tonight’s very wide eight and half point margin.
However, I am reluctant to lay that many points with the way the Knicks have been playing of late. I know, I know… here comes the collective eye-rolling, as we have been down this path more than a few times with the Lakers this season (see: Lin-sanity). But the simple truth is, since Mike Woodson took over the Knicks, they are 11-3 and have been playing fantastic defense. They have covered the spread in 6 of 8 and 12 of 15 ATS overall. Think about that. They have been an 80% payout percentage over the last month of action. And tonight they are getting eight and a half points.
That seems like a few too many to lay, so I am going to take my chances that ‘Melo and company avoid the odd home and home letdown that so often befalls the team in the return matchup when they trade gyms. Carmelo Anthony referred to Sunday’s game as a “playoff game” for the Knicks. Hopefully he takes the same approach tonight and keeps the Knicks competitive, which is all that is needed to cover the huge -8.5 line.
Free Pick: New York Knicks +8.5