Rose Situation Starting to Drag Down Bulls
Is the Derrick Rose daily guessing game starting to wear on the Chicago Bulls? Certainly the team will be glad to see February end when Chicago hosts Philadelphia on Thursday night in the TNT doubleheader opener, which will have live play-by-play betting at Bovada.
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The Bulls entered this month at 28-17, looking everything like a team that would finish in the top four of the Eastern Conference and have home-court advantage for at least one round of the playoffs. Chicago opened February with a loss at Brooklyn and home win against Atlanta before traveling to Indiana on February 4 in a game for the Central Division lead. The Pacers, not exactly an offensive juggernaut, beat the Bulls 111-101. That loss snapped Chicago's 41-game win streak when scoring at least 100 points, tied for the longest such streak in NBA history.
Things have gone downhill ever since.
In their next game the Bulls, the league's No. 2 defensive team, allowed a season-high 128 points in a blowout loss at Denver. It was the most points any opponent had scored during Tom Thibodeau's three years as Chicago's coach. On February 11, the Bulls were dominated 103-89 at home against San Antonio even though the Spurs were without stars Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Next time out, to close the first half of the season, Chicago was held to a season-low 69 points in a loss at Boston as the Bulls' starting five combined for 37 points - which is one slightly above average game in terms of points for Kevin Durant or LeBron James.
Things haven't improved for Chicago in the five games after the break. The Bulls have easy wins over two of the league's worst teams, New Orleans and Charlotte. They were humiliated at home last Thursday by Miami, 86-67 (Bulls' new season low in points), in which Chicago turned the ball over a whopping 27 times. On Sunday, Chicago was no match for the Thunder in Oklahoma City, losing 102-72 and shooting a season-low 29.1% from the field. That loss was made even worse as the Bulls lost their top reserve, big man Taj Gibson, for at least two weeks with a knee injury.
Perhaps the most perplexing result was Tuesday's 101-98 home loss to Cleveland. Chicago was an 8.5-point closing favorite once it was announced the Cavs were going to be without All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. The Bulls looked exhausted in the defeat, which ended their 11-game winning streak against Cleveland.
Overall this month, Chicago is 4-8 (6-6 ATS) and has dropped to 11/1 at Bovada to win the Eastern Conference and 25/1 to win the NBA title. Bulls stars Luol Deng and Joakim Noah are both playing heavy minutes, while hurt starting point guard Kirk Hinrich has been in and out of the lineup all season due to injury. An already weak bench now is among the NBA's worst with Gibson out. Chicago's reserves were outscored 36-19 by the Cavaliers.
Most would agree, however, that it's the Rose saga that is the main culprit in wearing this team down. The constant questions and public comments from Rose and his family have to be a distraction. Chicago isn't a great offensive team with Rose and is well below average without him. The Bulls rely on defensive intensity to win, and that has been waning as the players are breaking down due to heavy minutes.
Thursday night's game should be winnable for the Bulls. The 76ers have also played all season without (presumably) their best player, center Andrew Bynum. Philadelphia is in a tailspin, having lost at home to wretched Orlando on Tuesday as an 8.5-point favorite for its sixth-straight loss (2-4 ATS). The Bulls are 2-0 against Philly (1-1 ATS) this year.
Also available for Live Betting on Thursday is Timberwolves at Lakers on TNT. Los Angeles missed a chance to return to .500 for the first time since the end of November with Monday's 119-108 loss at Denver. At 28-30, L.A. is three games behind No. 8 Houston for the West's final playoff spot. Kobe Bryant has guaranteed his team will make the playoffs, and Coach Mike D'Antoni had said the Lakers would have to go at least 20-8 after the break to make it. They are 3-1 (2-2 ATS). L.A. is 11-5 in its past 16 games overall, but when it loses it tends to do so ugly: those five defeats are by an average of more than 14 point. Only one came at home against the Lakers' co-Staples Center tenants, the Clippers.
The Lakers will be big favorites against Minnesota, which has dropped three straight and is 2-11 on the road in the New Year (4-8-1 ATS). Los Angeles has won 20-straight games against the Timberwolves (12 straight in L.A.), including 111-100 in Minneapolis in the lone meeting this year.
On Friday, the book offers Live Betting on Grizzlies at Heat and Thunder at Nuggets. Miami got caught in a major trap game Tuesday night at home against Sacramento and needed overtime to beat the lousy Kings 141-129. LeBron James continued his absurd play with a season-high 40 points and career-high 16 assists as the Heat won their 12th-straight game (8-4 ATS). It was the first 40/16 game in the NBA in 19 years.
One of Miami's worst losses of the season came at Memphis 104-86 on November 11. With their size down low of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies can attack Miami's one weakness. However, the Heat haven't lost at home since January 4, though they have failed to cover their past two there.
There is no Live NBA Betting on Saturday with a heavy NCAA schedule, while on Sunday the book offers Heat at Knicks, Thunder at Clippers and Bulls at Pacers. New York is 2-0 against Miami this year, winning each game by 20 points (both back in 2012). Think the Heat will be aware of that?
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