Oklahoma City Thunder -2.5 at Chicago Bulls (Total: 190.5)
The Bulls weren’t able to send their fans home with Big Macs two nights ago, but they were able to send them home with a win. Joakim Noah launched a 3-point attempt with less than six seconds left in an already-decided game in an attempt to get the Bulls score over 100 points, which would have earned the sellout crowd free Big Macs. The shot clanged, the crowd booed, Coach Thibs was NOT happy, and Joakim (half-heartedly) pledged to not do that again.
It’s kind of story that makes it hard not to at least be amused by Joakim, but more importantly, intrigued by the Bulls. Without Derek Rose (stop when that sounds familiar) the Bulls are 3-1 and playing excellent basketball. Can they keep it up with a top-flight opponent in town tonight? Let’s breakdown the matchup and see if we can get back to our winning ways.
The Bulls have been getting solid production from the aforementioned Noah, who is averaging 16.6 points and 8 rebounds. It’s a good sign that Noah has picked up his offensive production, but a tad troubling he is their leading scorer at such a low output. They are going to need some more offense from Luol Deng (15 ppg). On the positive sign, the Bulls have gotten nice balance. Carlos Boozer, Richard Hamilton and Nate Robinson are all averaging 13.2 to 12.2 points per game. Do you know what else these guys all have in common? They are all a million years old. Perhaps they can keep the ship afloat waiing for Rose to return, but I wouldn’t make that the core of my Playoff strategy.
The Thunder are going to present a much more stern defensive challenge than the Bulls got from Orlando, Cleveland or Sacramento. OKC is easily the best team they have played this season and I expect the Bulls to have mighty offensive struggles tonight, even at home. I can’t see Joakim Noah having a big night with Serge Ibaka patrolling the paint, and similarly for Deng, Hamilton and Nate Robinson with the troika of Durant, Westbrook and the underrated defender Thabo Sefolosha.
I like OKC to put pressure on Chicago, both defensively and by scoring a ton of points when they have the ball. The Bulls calling card is their stifling defense, but not many teams have been able to control the Thunder the past two seasons. I think they play well on the road and get the win in Chicago.
Free Pick: Oklahoma City Thunder -2.5