The Oklahoma City Thunder are the NBA betting odds favorites as they host the Chicago Bulls, who, still without Derrick Rose, are smarting from an unexpected loss on Friday night.
The Chicago Bulls Can Win Because…
They are going to play better than they did on Friday. How could Chicago have been any worse than it was against the Hornets? This team has to be better – it is way too good to remain in the doldrums.
The Bulls received four genuinely awful performances against Charlotte, two of them from members of their starting five. Nikola Mirotic might have scored 15 points, but he did so on 5-of-15 shooting. He was inefficient and out of rhythm. Mike Dunleavy was 1 of 4 from the field. Joakim Noah? He was 0 for 3 from the field and finished with one point. Kirk Hinrich, an established veteran in this league, was 0 for 5, as was E’Twaun Moore, who interestingly enough hit a game-winning shot against Oklahoma City a few weeks ago in Chicago. If the Bulls can just get decent performances from their main rotation players, they have a very legitimate chance of beating the Thunder again – after all, they just did so in the not so distant past. Tony Snell (5 of 12 against Charlotte) and Aaron Brooks (24 points against Charlotte) are capable of playing well. If everyone pitches in, the Bulls should be right there with the Thunder, able to steal this game late in the fourth quarter.
Then there’s the simple fact that Kevin Durant will miss this game for Oklahoma City. Three days ago, it was announced that Durant would be back in one to two weeks. That makes this game a no-go for him, which puts Chicago on a much more level playing field.
The Oklahoma City Thunder Can Win Because…
They're playing a Chicago team that is without Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. There is simply no avoiding or denying the fact that Rose and Butler are two high-quality players. When an NBA roster loses both of them, it’s going to have a negative impact. The Bulls might be good at times without these stars, but on a consistent basis – game after game, week after week – it’s going to catch up with them. Chicago is not going to be able to handle Oklahoma City’s backcourt. Rose or Butler, one of the two, would have made Chicago a much better defensive team on the wings. With both of them gone, how will the Bulls contain Russell Westbrook, who scored 29 points on Friday in an easy win over the Minnesota Timberwolves? Westbrook also handed out 12 assists in that game, and teammates Anthony Morrow (3 of 6 on threes) and Enes Kanter (23 points on 10 of 19 field goal shooting) were the beneficiaries of Westbrook’s penetration. If Chicago can’t contain Westbrook at the first point of attack, the Bulls are going to get broken down. They’ll collapse to help on Westbrook in the paint, but that will leave OKC’s shooters open on passes to the perimeter. This matchup just doesn’t shape up well for the Bulls with both Rose and Butler out, which is why NBA odds are favoring the Thunder today.
The Bulls have dropped four of five and the reason for it is because their best players aren’t on the court. This isn’t complicated. The Thunder are on the outside of the playoffs looking in right now and they can’t mess around. Russell Westbrook should run wild in this game and lead Oklahoma City to a win. Take them with your NBA picks.
NBA Pick: Oklahoma City -7.5 at Pinnacle