NBA Odds: Bulls Are Desperate, But Back Bucks In Final Meeting

Matthew Jordan

Sunday, April 3, 2016 1:00 PM GMT

It's the final meeting of the season between Central Division rivals and neighbors Chicago and Milwaukee as the Bulls head about 90 miles up the road Sunday. The Bucks are -2.5 on NBA odds, with a total of 203 points.

Bulls In Desperation Mode
Chicago (38-38) needs every win it can get as it battles Indiana and Detroit for the final two playoff spots in the East. The Bulls are two games  behind the No. 8 Pacers (Chicago wins the tiebreaker) and 2.5 games behind the No. 7 Pistons (Bulls lose tiebreaker). The Bulls' remaining schedule is: at Memphis, at Miami, vs. Cleveland, at New Orleans, vs. Philadelphia. They should beat the Grizzlies, Pelicans and 76ers. Maybe the Cavs rest some guys next Saturday. But Chicago probably has to win them all to get in.

The Bulls' front office has to be wondering if it screwed up by firing the highly successful Tom Thibodeau this offseason and replaced him with laid-back Fred Hoiberg, formerly of Iowa State. Chicago never won fewer than 45 games under Thibs and never came close to missing the postseason in his five years. True, the Bulls have had a lot of injuries this season, but Thibs didn't exactly have a healthy Derrick Rose much.

Chicago lost 94-90 at home to Detroit on Saturday despite 28 points and career-highs of 17 rebounds and 12 assists from Jimmy Butler. Pau Gasol had 16 points and 14 rebounds. Neither might be a Bull next season; Gasol is a free agent and there have been reports that Chicago will gauge Butler's trade value this summer. Rose missed the game with an elbow injury and is doubtful here. Big man Taj Gibson sat out with a broken rib and won't be back any time soon.  

The Bulls are 32-44 against the spread on NBA odds this season and 36-39-1 'over/under.'

 

Bucks Already Planning For 2016-17
It has been a lost season for Milwaukee after reaching last year's playoffs and pushing these Bulls to six games in the first round. There has been one major bright spot for the Bucks, however, and that has been the play of 6-fot-11 Giannis Antetokounmpo since moving to point guard. The "Greek Freak" has been fantastic since the move and been a mini-Russell Westbrook in terms of triple-doubles. Earlier this week, Bucks coach Jason Kidd, a pretty darn point guard in his days and future Hall of Famer, said he was keeping Antetokounmpo at the point full-time in 2016-17. That's going to be a fantastic experiment and could truly change the NBA like Magic Johnson did with his size as a point guard. Not  many 6-foot-11 guys could do this, but Antetokounmpo is an athletic marvel.

This probably means that former starting point guard Michael Carter-Williams will be traded this offseason. He's a good passer and defender but can't shoot at all (Antetokounmpo also has a weak jumper). Williams is out for the season due to hip surgery, so the Bucks may have to start next season with him on the roster to build his value back up. He averaged 11.5 points. 5.2 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game.

Milwaukee (32-44) won a second straight game Friday, 113-110 over visiting Orlando. Jabari Parker had maybe his best game of the season with 26 points on 12-for-14 shooting and Antetokounmpo had another triple-double with 18 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. Guard Jerryd Bayless missed the game with a knee injury and isn't expected here.

The Bucks are 38-37-1 ATS on NBA picks and 38-38 O/U.

 

Season Series
Chicago leads 2-1. On Jan. 5 in the Windy City, the Bulls were -8.5 at sportsbooks (total of 201) and won 117-106. Butler had 32 points and 10 assists, Gasol 26 points and 11 rebounds, and Gibson 11 points and 14 rebounds. Carter-Williams had 20 points and 12 assists for the Bucks. On Jan. 12 in Milwaukee, the Bulls were -3.5 (total of 203) and lost 106-101. Antetokounmpo had 29 points on 10-for-14 shooting. Milwaukee scored 30 points off of 17 Chicago turnovers. And on March 7 in Chicago, the Bulls were -5.5 (total of 212) and won 100-90. Butler missed the game, but Gasol had a triple-double of 12 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists.

Some interesting ties between the franchises. Parker was a high school All-American at Simeon High in Chicago -- where Rose also played -- and led his team to four state titles. The Bulls' Butler starred at Marquette in Milwaukee. Chicago forward Mike Dunleavy played two seasons for the Bucks (2011-13). Go Bucks and 'under.' The home team has covered nine of the past 12 meetings. The 'under' is 9-4 in the past 13.

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Free NBA Pick:  Bucks -2½ -103 & Under 203 -105
Best Line Offered:  at 5Dimes and Heritage