The Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets met in the first round of last year's playoffs and could well again -- by the current Eastern Conference standings they would. Chicago looks for a 36-hour (or so) sweep of the New York teams on Monday but is a 3-point underdog on NBA odds with a total of 187 for sports bettors.
Home Sweet Home
Brooklyn's players might need to ask directions to the Barclays Center. The Nets haven't played at home since Feb. 12. So this will be the home debut of Jason Collins, and I'm sure it will be a warm one. Good for him and all but he's not a factor on the court, averaging 8.5 minutes in his four games and totaling three points and four rebounds.
The Nets (29-28 ATS, 28-25-4 O/U at sportsbooks) were 4-3 on their seven-game trip (one before the All-Star break), capping it with a 107-98 victory at NBA-worst Milwaukee on Saturday. Marcus Thornton, acquired before the trade deadline for Jason Terry and Reggie Evans in what looks like a steal (Terry won't play the rest of the season), had 25 points off the bench to lead the Nets. That bench was terrific as Andray Blatche had 19 points and 13 rebounds. He got 30 minutes of action because forward/center Kevin Garnett sat out with back spasms. The Nets pretty much knew they could beat the Bucks without him so KG should be in there Monday night. He's been much better of late, shooting 57 percent from the field in his past 21 games.
A win here would get the Nets to .500 for the first time since Nov. 5.
Who Needs Derrick Rose?
The Bulls are a season-high seven games over .500 and currently No. 3 in the East after Sunday's 109-90 cakewalk over the Knicks (is Mike Woodson still New York's coach on Monday? New York clearly didn't care much, falling behind 16-1 in losing its sixth straight). We took the Bulls at -7 on our Sunday NBA picks for that one. Chicago's only loss in the past 10 games was at Miami.
Is there a better center in the NBA than Joakim Noah right now? He had his second triple-double of the season with the awesome line of 14 assists, 13 points and 12 rebounds against the Knicks. He was the second straight player with a triple-double against New York (Golden State's Stephen Curry). Noah was one of seven Bulls to score in double figures. The Bulls turned the ball over a franchise-low three times and outscored the Knicks 48-20 in the paint. Recently signed Jimmer Fredette made his Chicago debut in garbage time and had two points. He's not likely to get much playing time as Coach Tom Thibodeau is pretty strict with his rotation.
The Bulls (31-28 ATS, 24-35 O/U at sportsbooks), the NBA's lowest-scoring team at 93.1 points per game, reached triple digits for the fourth straight game, all wins. They have lost just twice all season when scoring at least 100: 107-104 at Philadelphia on Nov. 2 and 131-128 in overtime at home to New Orleans on Dec. 2.
Third and final meeting, with the Bulls up 2-0. Chicago visited Brooklyn on Christmas and won 95-78 as 4-point underdogs on NBA odds. Taj Gibson, who grew up in Brooklyn, had 20 points and eight rebounds. He was one of six Bulls players with double-figure points. Chicago trailed 50-49 early in the third before going on a 21-5 run. That was still when the Nets were struggling big time and dropped them to 9-19. On Feb. 13 in Chicago, the start of Brooklyn's road trip, the Bulls won 92-76 as 3.5-point favorites for sports bettors. Noah had 14 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. Paul Pierce led Brooklyn with 15 points. The Bulls shot 50 percent from the field and the Nets 38.8 percent.
NBA free picks: Nets -3 and over 187 points. Brooklyn has been one of the NBA's best home teams in the New Year, going 10-2 and winning four straight there. The Nets haven't been swept by the Bulls since Michael Jordan's last season there and won't be this season, either. Chicago is likely to be tired in its third game in four nights. The Bulls are also 0-4 ATS in their past four Monday games. Brooklyn is 9-1 ATS in its past 10 playing one day of rest.