Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to April 12 inclusive:
The New York Knicks didn’t go down without a fight. Staring at the brink of elimination, they beat the Toronto Raptors (–5.5 at home) 108-100 on Friday night, overcoming the NBA odds and putting a dent in our bankroll. My trolls are pleased. But New York was eliminated from the playoffs on Saturday when the eighth-place Atlanta Hawks defeated the Miami Heat (–5.5 away) 98-85. Sad trombone.
That Hawks win certainly changes the complexion of Sunday night’s matchup (7:30 p.m. ET, MSG) at Madison Square Garden between the Knicks and the Chicago Bulls. New York doesn’t have much left to play for other than pride; Chicago, on the other hand, is trying to stay ahead of the Raptors for the No. 3 seed in the East. The NBA betting lines for this game have yet to be released as we go to press.
The big question for this matchup is who will play for the Knicks (34-45 SU, 35-44 ATS). There’s still one more home game to go after this, so instead of putting their prized thoroughbreds on display, the Knicks might be more inclined to give their youngsters a little more burn. Carmelo Anthony (24.5 PER) and his sore shoulder are definitely candidates to get some rest. There’s not much point in having Amar’e Stoudemire (18.7 PER) or Tyson Chandler (16.6 PER) risk further injury, either.
Knicks PBO Phil Jackson would no doubt like to see what some of his prospects can do. Tim Hardaway (12.5 PER) and Iman Shumpert (9.8 PER) are already getting lots of minutes off the bench, but they could use some more. Cole Aldrich (16.7 PER) has been one of New York’s most productive players, on those rare occasions when he gets to play. Jeremy Tyler (14.5 PER) has done enough to deserve an audition for next year. I would strongly advise you to get solid information on New York’s personnel plans before betting on this game.
Go Changing to Try and Please Me
We can be pretty sure the Bulls (47-32 SU, 40-38-1 ATS) will be giving it the proverbial college try on Sunday. They’re one game ahead of Toronto in the standings with three games remaining; whoever ends up with the No. 4 seed will probably have to face the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, and the Nets are 17-7 SU and 15-9 ATS since Feb. 26. Tough gig.
Chicago’s no pushover, either, winning seven games in a row at 5-1-1 ATS to overtake Toronto for third place. And head coach Tom Thibodeau says he won’t be resting any of his starters going down the stretch. “I don’t want to change how we do anything,” Thibodeau told the Chicago Sun-Times before Friday’s 106-98 win over the Detroit Pistons (+10 away). Indeed, the Bulls stuck with their usual seven-man rotation; center Joakim Noah (20.0 PER) played 40 minutes against Detroit, posting six points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, three blocks and a pair of steals.
The Bulls did go out and sign some veteran support players for the rest of the season: point guard Mike James (14.0 career PER) and forward Lou Amundson (12.3 career PER), both of whom have played for Chicago in the past. However, we probably won’t see either gentleman on the court Sunday. It’d be nice to have some basketball odds to look at, but in a game where the Bulls could be facing New York’s B-Team, I’ll have to pick Chicago sight unseen. May the sphere be with you.
Special update: The Knicks have opened as 1-point favorites.
NBA Pick: Take the Bulls +1 (–108) at Marathon