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Thursday Tips
Following last Thursday's postponement of the Knicks/Nets game, TNT will finally have its first Thursday doubleheader of the season this week. The Bulls open things up against the defending Western Conference champion Thunder, while the Blazers and Clippers finish the night at the Rose Garden. We'll begin in the Windy City with Oklahoma City attempting to break above the .500 mark for the first time in this young season.

Thunder at Bulls - 8:05 PM EST

In spite of playing with Derrick Rose on the sidelines, Chicago has found a way to win three of its first four games. Granted, the three victories are over the Kings, Cavaliers, and Magic, but Chicago is relying on the frontcourt of Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Joakim Noah to lift them to this 3-1 record. The Bulls needed a moderate rally to knock off Orlando on Tuesday, 99-93, but Chicago failed to cover as nine-point favorites.

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The Thunder bounced back from Sunday's home loss to the Hawks by beating the Raptors soundly, 108-88 as nine-point 'chalk.' Oklahoma City jumped out to a 30-17 lead after one quarter, while cruising to a 19-point halftime edge. The Raps shot just 35% from the floor, as Kyle Lowry left the game in the first half with a sprained ankle. Not one member of the Thunder scored more than 20 points, but six players finished in double-figures, including a game-high 19 points from Russell Westbrook.

The Bulls own an 0-3 ATS record at the United Center after not cashing against Sacramento and Orlando in close victories, while losing straight-up to New Orleans as nine-point favorites. In Chicago's six-point triumph over Orlando, the Bulls pulled off a 12-2 run to start the fourth quarter to take control of a game that was in doubt for three quarters. Tom Thibodeau's club held the Magic to 42% shooting from the floor, including a 7-22 effort from Glen Davis.

Oklahoma City won the lone meeting with Chicago last season, 92-78 as six-point home favorites. The two teams have split each of the previous four matchups at the United Center, including a 99-90 triumph by the Bulls in December 2010.

Clippers at Blazers - 10:30 PM EST

Los Angeles finishes off a tough back-to-back stretch after beating San Antonio at home on Wednesday. The Clippers head up the coast to the Rose Garden for a meeting with the Blazers, who return to Portland following a three-game road swing. The Blazers picked up only one victory on that trip, coming in overtime at Houston. In the two losses, Terry Stotts' team lost by 14 points or more at Oklahoma City and Dallas.

Portland's lone game at the Rose Garden turned out to be its best overall effort, a 116-106 whipping of the Lakers as short 'dogs. The Blazers have failed to capitalize on that win by scoring 100 points or less in each of the last three games. In Monday's setback at Dallas, the Blazers trailed by just four points heading into the final quarter, but the Mavs outscored Portland, 31-12 en route to a 114-91 blowout. Portland's bench scored just 17 points in the loss, while allowing Dallas to shoot a scorching 61% from the field.

The Clippers are leaving Los Angeles for the first time this season following five games at Staples Center (including a "road" contest against the Lakers). Vinny Del Negro's squad didn't look particularly sharp in home losses to the Warriors and Cavaliers as heavy 'chalk,' while being listed as an away favorite for the second time this season. The Clips have won 10 of their past 15 games when laying points on the road, including five of the last seven as an away favorite of three points or less.

Los Angeles captured three of four matchups last season, while rallying from 18 points down at the Rose Garden in a February 74-71 triumph. That victory by the Clippers snapped a six-game skid in Portland dating back to 2009.

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at rogers@vegasinsider.com

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

  
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