Chicago has seen some rough times. Losing a basketball game? Not a big deal. The Chicago Bulls should have no trouble shrugging off Tuesday’s season-opening 107-95 loss to the Miami Heat (–5), especially with that game taking place in Miami. If anything, that result makes the Bulls an even stronger NBA bet for Thursday’s matchup (8:00 p.m. ET, TNT) with the New York Knicks. Chicago is an 8-point home chalk as we go to press, up from 5.5 points at the open.
Every Rose Has Its Lousy Basketball Game
Yes, I faded the Bulls in the season opener. The main idea was to take advantage of point guard Derrick Rose and the hype surrounding his return after missing all of 2012-13 with a torn ACL. Rose is damaged goods until proven otherwise; at the very least, there’s “game rust” to worry about. And Rose looked very rusty indeed on Tuesday: 4-of-15 for 12 points with four assists and five turnovers.
So why am I flip-flopping here? Because Thursday is a whole new ballgame. It’s Chicago’s home-opener this time, and the Knicks will be heading into town after Wednesday night’s 90-83 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks (+7.5 away). Those natural advantages, plus the presumed market overreaction to Chicago’s 0-1 record, make the Bulls my NBA pick for Thursday.
Just like the Bulls were down 25 points to the Heat before mounting a late comeback attempt, the Knicks took a 25-point lead into the dressing room Wednesday night before allowing the Bucks to make the game interesting. A little bit too interesting in New York’s case: Milwaukee fought all the way back and went up 81-80 late in the fourth before the Knicks salted away the win – but not the cover.
Again, this is just one game, the smallest sample size there is. But this is a very banged-up Knicks team that got worse on Wednesday when PG Raymond Felton tweaked his injured hamstring. He eventually returned to the court, ending the night with a very effective 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting in 34 minutes. Felton might find it difficult to match those numbers without much time to heal between games. Also playing hurt: SG Iman Shumpert (elbow) and PF Kenyon Martin (ankle).
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Everybody Hates Amar’e
There is one important Knicks player who will be rested for Thursday’s game. PF Amar’e Stoudemire is expected to play against the Bulls after sitting out Wednesday’s opener. Avoiding back-to-back contests is a wise move, considering Stoudemire’s fragile knees – he only played 29 games last year, after all. But what games those were: Stoudemire posted a 22.1 PER, with 16.4 points and 9.8 rebounds (4.4 on the offensive glass) per 36 minutes of play.
Let’s just not talk about Stoudemire’s defense, or his albatross of a contract. Same goes for Andrea Bargnani, who looked far too much like the Toronto Raptors version of Andrea Bargnani on Wednesday: six points on 3-of-9 shooting in 17 flat minutes off the bench, with three turnovers and a minus-11 on the night. Bargnani can still be a good scoring option for the Knicks, but not if he can’t contribute quality minutes with Stoudemire out and SG J.R. Smith suspended for the first five games.
There are going to be situations where I want to take the Knicks. This is not one of them. The Bulls were 4-0 SU and ATS versus New York last year, winning all four games as underdogs. There’s the potential for the NBA lines to be inflated with Rose back in the picture, but I’m looking at the clash of styles between the Bulls and the Knicks, and I’m expecting a similar result when they meet on Thursday.
NBA Pick: Take the Bulls –8 bet365