The Bulls opened as 7-point favorites on NBA odds with a total of 192 for sports bettors.
Too Bad Kings Aren't In East
How bad is the bottom of the Eastern Conference? The Kings (28-35-2 ATS, 31-32-2 O/U at sportsbooks) started a season-high seven-game road trip through the conference with a 116-102 blowout at wretched Milwaukee. Then Sacramento lost by double digits in Toronto, Brooklyn and Detroit. Thankfully for the Kings, a trip to visit the D-League Philadelphia 76ers was up next and naturally Sacramento rolled 115-98 in perhaps Philly's last best chance to win a game before the season is out. Sacramento has 11 wins against the East and five have been by at least 17 points. The Kings haven't beat a team with a winning record since Feb. 5 at home against Toronto. They haven't beaten a Western Conference team with a winning record since Jan. 7.
DeMarcus Cousins had 19 points and 12 rebounds against Philly for his sixth double-double in the past seven games and 40th this season. That total is fourth in the NBA behind Minnesota's Kevin Love, Detroit's Andre Drummond and Houston's Dwight Howard. Cousins is one of three Kings averaging at least 20 points, the only team in the NBA with three doing so.
The Kings moved Derrick Williams into the starting lineup Wednesday at power forward instead of a Reggie Evans/Jason Thompson platoon there. We will see if that continues as Williams, the former No. 2 overall pick acquired from Minnesota, had just five points and six rebounds in 31 minutes. He did play solid defense. Thompson responded to the demotion with 14 points and seven rebounds in 26 minutes, while Evans barely played. The Sixers don't have a lot of size (or talent) so that may have been a temporary move. Thompson could be back in there against the bigger Bulls.
Chicago (34-31 ATS, 27-38 O/U at sportsbooks) played perhaps its worst game since facing these Kings -- see below -- in Tuesday's 104-96 home loss to San Antonio. We projected a bounce-back effort on Thursday's NBA picks for Chicago against visiting Houston and the Bulls steamrolled the Rockets 111-87 in one of their best games of the year. Joakim Noah made his case for first-team All-NBA center by thoroughly outplaying Howard. Noah finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists and the Bulls were plus-24 with him on the court. Howard had 12 points and 10 rebounds but the Rockets were minus-28 with him on the floor.
Mike Dunleavy led the Bulls with 21 points despite taking an elbow above his right eye early in the second quarter that opened up a gash and left the right side of his face a bloody mess. Apparently Dunleavy is a hockey player too because he went right into the locker room, got 10 stitches and played in the second half when he scored all of his points. Chicago's Jimmy Butler is quickly emerging as one of the top perimeter defensive players in the league and held James Harden to just eight points on 2-for-7 shooting.
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The Bulls played likely their worst game of the season when they faced Kings on Feb. 3 in Sacramento. The Kings jumped out to a 24-12 first-quarter lead behind 11 points and seven boards from Cousins (who had missed the previous six games due to injury) and cruised 99-70. How bad was it? Even Sacramento scrub Jimmer Fredette, now occupying the Bulls bench, had 11 points.
Chicago shot just 28.2 percent, the worst ever by an opponent against Sacramento, and was outrebounded 53-30 (a season low for the Bulls). Jimmy Butler was the only Bulls starter in double-figure points with 17. Noah was ejected in the third quarter after he went all Andrew Dice Clay (i.e. dropping F-bombs) on each official. All things considered that was Noah's worst game of the year as well because he didn't do much (1-for 6 from field, four rebounds) before getting the hook.
It was the Bulls' second straight loss in Sacramento, but they have won three straight at home in the series.
NBA free picks: We'll add the Bulls -7 and the under to our NBA picks. The Kings are 3-12 ATS in their past 15 after a win of at least 10 points. Chicago is 4-0 ATS in its past four at home against teams with a losing record. The under is 8-1 in Chicago's past nine Saturday games. For many teams this would be a trap game, but the Bulls generally are too well-coached to slip into one. This time of year a coach like Tom Thibodeau will look for any motivation he can get and payback for that earlier blowout loss to the Kings should suffice.