No joke. It’s an April fool’s day showdown with the top two teams in the league, the Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder, squaring off Sunday in a possible NBA finals preview. Tip-off is 1:00 PM ET Chesapeake Energy Arena in downtown OKC, and our NBA picks
This must be a tough one for the NBA odds makers to call, as this matchup will put the top teams in the NBA up against eachother. Lets take a look at this star studded showdown and decide where we can find the best value for our NBA picks.
The Chicago Bulls (42-11 SU, 32-21 ATS) own the best
mark in the league and are 3.5 games in front of Miami in the Eastern
Conference. The Thunder (39-12 SU, 29-12 ATS) are the best in the Western Conference by three
games over San Antonio. Chicago has 13 regular season contests remaining while
Oklahoma City has 15 remaining on its slate.
Last time out
Friday in Chicago, the Bulls put a
stranglehold on the Detroit Pistons winning 82-71 and getting the cover as a
-12 point favorite. Luol Deng scored a game high 20 points while Joakim Noah
and Carlos Boozer each had double-double’s. Noah contributed 19 points and 12
rebounds while Boozer contributed 13 and 11. On the defensive end, Chicago held
Detroit to 36.9 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from downtown (3 of 11)
making for an easy ‘under’ victory for bettors.
Talent to spare
Reigning NBA MVP Derrick Rose has missed
nine straight games but Chicago has still managed to get the job done, going 7-2
SU and 6-3 ATS during his absence. The Bulls have five players
scoring in double figures; Rose (22.8 points per game), Boozer (15.6), Deng
(15.4), Richard Hamilton (11.3) and C.J. Watson (10.5). With that kind of
balance and one of the deepest benches in the league, it’s easy to see why
Chicago hasn’t just survived but has prospered during Roses’
The Oklahoma City Thunder have plenty of weapons of
its own. They have the top 1-2 scoring punch in the league in Kevin Durant
(27.7 points per game) and Russell Westbrook 24.4 ppg). Westbrook also leads
the team in assists and steals while Westbrook is tops in rebounds (8.1 rpg).
The unsung hero is starting power forward Serge Ibaka who is contributing nine
points and eight rebounds per outing.
The Thunder’s bench is one of the best
and has arguably the best sixth man in the game. James Harden, who looks 40 but
won’t turn 23 until August, is averaging 17.1 points per game off the bench.
Overall, OKC is first in the league in
scoring (103.7 points per game), second in field goal percentage and first in
free throw shooting (79.7 percent).
On Thursday night, the Thunder left the
Lakers looking old and tired as they rolled to a 102-93 victory. Westbrook had
36 points while Durant added 21 and 11 rebounds. OKC’s defense forced Kobe
Bryant (23 points) into another awful shooting night (7 of 25 attempts) while Pau
Gasol was hassled into a 4 of 11 performance from the field.
No slouch on offense
The Bulls are scoring score six
points per game less than the Thunder but it’s their defense that
leaves opposing teams shaking their heads. Chicago is second in fewest points
allowed per game (88.5), third in field goal percentage (42.6), fourth in
rebounding (40 per game) and sixth in 3-point shooting (33.2 percent).
Offensively, The Bulls are 11th
in scoring (97.2 points per game), are sixth in field goal percentage (45.7)
and rank fourth in in shooting from beyond the arc (38.0 percent). Make no
mistake though Chicago’s calling card is defense. In three of their last five
games the Bulls have given up 77 points or less including a smothering 85-59
victory over the Magic on March 19.
Harvey’s Take: We didn’t have to wait long for the
game of the month. OKC made it look it easy against the Lakers but the Bulls
are a different beast. This game will have a playoff feel to it and in those
types of contests I prefer to give the edge to the defense. It’s the same story
here with a lean to the Bulls and a definite play on the ‘under’.