76ers vs. Bulls: NBA Picks and Predictions

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76ers vs. Bulls: NBA Picks and Predictions
Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls on March 01, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images/AFP

Something’s up with the Philadelphia 76ers – but that could make them the right NBA pick for Thursday’s tilt with the Chicago Bulls. Let’s take a look at those NBA odds.

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Chicago Bulls

Thursday, March 11, 2021 – 8:00 PM ET at United Center

The Eastern Conference is a toss-up at this point. Coming out of the All-Star break, the Philadelphia 76ers (24-12 SU, 19-16-1 ATS) have the best record in the East, but only by a half-game over the Brooklyn Nets, and two games over the Milwaukee Bucks. Philadelphia also have the worst point differential of the three at plus-3.5. There are five teams in the West with better differentials than that.

In other words, the Sixers are probably overvalued heading into Thursday’s matchup with the Chicago Bulls (16-18 SU, 20-14 ATS). But there’s a catch: Both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons won’t be available for Philadelphia, after they were placed on the COVID-19 list and sidelined for Sunday’s All-Star Game. Will the betting market overcompensate by moving the NBA spreads too far in Chicago’s favor?

Fist of Fun

Maybe just a smidge. The Bulls have opened as two-point home faves for this contest – at least they have on the Vegas strip, with odds from our SBR-approved online sportsbooks still pending at press time. Meanwhile, FiveThirtyEight only project Chicago to win by a single point. Not a lot of difference there; remember, we’d like to have at least two points of clearance between the projections and the odds if we’re going to put Philadelphia in our free NBA picks.

We might recommend the Sixers for a fun-size bet anyway. It’s good to throw some small ATS wagers out there if you’re a sharp bettor trying to disguise yourself as a recreational bettor. But if you want to bet big, maybe there will be some value with Thursday’s total – which is also pending as we go to press. Strange. Perhaps there’s more going on with this game than just Embiid and Simmons going into protocol.

Joel Embiid of the 76ers
Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers celebrates a basket. Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images/AFP

The Young And The Restless

Well, there’s this: Both Laurie Markkanen (shoulder) and Otto Porter (back) are expected to come off the injured list Thursday. That’s good news for Bulls fans, at least in the longer term. Markkanen (plus-0.3 BPM) and Porter (also plus-0.3 BPM) haven’t played since early February, so they’ll probably need a game or two to shake of the ring rust. Whatever minutes they play against Philadelphia will come at the expense of Thaddeus Young (plus-3.4 BPM), who’s been a godsend for the Bulls.

Then again, as Young falls down the pecking order, that should also take some big-man minutes away from Wendell Carter (minus-1.6 BPM) and Patrick Williams (minus-3.5 BPM). It’s important for the Bulls to develop these young players, but now that they’re fighting for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, head coach Billy Donovan has incentive to tighten his roster and go with what’s working – and that would be Young.

Anyway, the probable return of Markkanen and Porter can’t be what’s keeping those NBA odds from hitting the board. Ah, maybe it’s this: Sixers head coach Doc Rivers has apparently fallen ill, although reports say it isn’t the coronavirus. Whatever’s going on, we’ve got a fluid situation (ahem) on our hands, so let’s recommend a very small bet on Philly for now, and may the sphere be with you.

NBA Pick: 76ers -3.5 (-110) at Bovada (visit our Bovada Review)

76ers -3.5(-110)
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*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.