Swinging Johnson NBA Record (0-0)
Chicago Bulls (30-21 SU, 21-29-1 ATS)
The Bulls continue to struggle in front of the hometown fans as they were blown out by the Spurs 103-89 on Monday night in what is just the latest in a string of defeats at the United Center. But on the highway the Bulls have compiled the best road record in the Eastern Conference where they are 15-9 SU (straight up) and 14-9-1 ATS (against the spread).
Injuries have plagued the Bulls dating back to last season when All-World point guard Derrick Rose went down with a torn ACL. The Bulls were optimistically hoping Rose would return after the All-Star break but that timeline appears to be a bit ambitious based on Rose's recent statements. However, Chicago's trainer's table is working overtime as every starter except Richard Hamilton has been in and out of the lineup over the past 3 ½ weeks. Although Hamilton has been healthy in the New Year, even he spent a dozen games on the shelf with a foot sprain.
Perhaps the most relevant injury to this particular game will be the absence of Kirk Hinrich who is nursing a sore elbow. The Bulls have gone 2-4 SU in his absence and have floundered with makeshift starting lineups and a lack of depth. The Bulls are seeking to right the ship in Boston as they are currently mired in a 1-3 slump both straight up and against the number.
Boston Celtics (27-24 SU, 22-26-3 ATS)
The Celtics dropped Monday night's game to the owners of the team with the worst record in the NBA, the Charlotte Bobcats. Yet, it was not entirely surprising particularly when you consider that less than 24 hours prior they were over 800 miles away and engaged in a triple overtime death struggle with the Denver Nuggets in which the Green ultimately prevailed 118-114 in front of a delirious Boston crowd.
Less than three weeks ago Boston’s All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo tore his ACL and in the process shredded any hope that he would return to the parquet for the remainder of the season. About the same time, the C’s number one draft pick Jared Sullinger was exiled to civilian clothes when his ailing back required season-ending surgery. But a funny thing happened – Boston went on a 7-game tear and silenced all the doom-and-gloomers until Monday night when they ran out of gas against the Bobcats. But in addition to losing the game they also lost Leandro Barbosa who tore his left ACL while driving to the basket in the 3rd quarter. It’s just another casualty in what has become the Celtics version of Survivor this season.
While the injuries mount there is a silver lining in all of this chaos. The Green has been playing much more cohesively since the Rondo injury and many speculate that has to do with a firm commitment to defense and a point guard who drained much of the shot clock dribbling and finding a target to dish off to, leaving the shooter little time to set and fire. Role players have flourished in his absence and we will now find out whether or not Boston can sustain their stellar play of late or if it was merely a temporary adrenalin rush.
Boston is 6-0 SU and ATS in their last 6 home games while the Bulls are 8-3 ATS in head-to-head meetings against the Celtics over the last three seasons. This year, Chicago is 2-1 SU and ATS over the Green with their most recent meeting culminating in a 100-99 victory in Boston as 2 ½ point underdogs against the NBA odds.
I am more than willing to chalk up Boston’s loss to the woeful Bobcats two nights ago as a good team in a bad spot. Garnett and Pierce have too much talent and experience to let that loss linger and I will go with an improved Celtics team who has been invincible at home recently. Take the Celtics to win and cover for your NBA picks.
NBA Picks: Play Boston -1 (-103) at 5Dimes.com.