NBA Picks: Look For Celtics To Cover In Rubber Game With Bulls

Jay Pryce

Friday, January 22, 2016 12:58 PM GMT

The Celtics, clinging to the final playoff spot in the East, host the Bulls at the TD Garden on Friday night, the third and final meeting between these two this year, who'll be our NBA pick?

[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":2883108, "sportsbooksIds":[169,1096,93,19,92,238], "LineTypeId":1, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]
NBA Pick: Celtics -3
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

 

Chicago Bulls (24-17 SU, 16-25 ATS)
Since Christmas Day, the Bulls average 104 points a night. They're lighting up some solid defenses, too, including the Raptors, Knicks, Celtics, Hawks and Pistons. All in all, they've surpassed their projected team total in nine of 14 games over this span. Under new coach Fred Hoiberg the Bulls are playing at a much faster pace (98.8 possessions per game)  and have seemingly found their offensive groove after searching for a team identity during the first half of the year. Chicago is still a little more efficient on defense rather than offense, allowing 100.5 points per 100 possessions as opposed to 100.9 scored, but is much more balanced than in previous seasons. 

The Bulls are Jimmy Butler's team these days, as he leads the squad with 22.4 points per game. The four-year pro posted a career-high 53 points in the team's 115-111 win over the Sixers four games ago, but has posted 43 total in his last three games combined. Butler will need to avoid Boston's Jae Crowder. He's 7-of-21 from the field against the new small forward.

The Bulls dominate the boards, grabbing 74 percent of offensive and defensive rebounds respectively, sixth best in the NBA in each. Pau Gasol leads the team with 10.8 per game, but Chicago backers may be more inclined to see the veteran center mixing it up on the scoring end. Averaging 16.3 points per game, when he posts below this number on a night, the Bulls are 6-14 ATS. The Celtics allow a 49 percent field goal percentage to centers on the season, sixth best in the NBA. Against the trio of Boston centers (Olynk, Sullinger, and Zeller), Gasol is 27-of-56 from the field.

Chicago will be without two key bench players in this rubber game, losing veterans Kirk Hinrich (quad) and Joakim Noah (shoulder) to injuries in recent days.

 

Boston Celtics (22-21 SU, 23-20 ATS)
The Celtics have battled a slew of injuries over the last couple of months and are clinging to the No. 8 playoff seed in the East, just one game ahead of Orlando for the final spot.

Boston has dropped three of its last six at home, shooting a lowly 41.6 percent from the field and averaging 3.6 points below their scoring projections. Many of these were without the team's second-leading scorer shooting guard Avery Bradley, who sat out for a few games with a hip injury. Since returning seven games ago, he's shooting just 41.7 percent from the field, but dropped 9-of-14 in Wednesday's 115-109 defeat to the Raptors. 

Bradley and his backcourt partner Isaiah Thomas are the primary scoring threats for Boston. The Bulls are the league's best at covering guards, yielding a paltry 39.4 field goal percentage to the position. In two games against the Bulls this season, Thomas is just 10-of-32, while Bradley, who missed  the last meeting, was 5-of-15 the first go around. For what it is worth, the Celtics shot just 36 percent from the floor in a 101-92 loss to the Bulls at the United Center three weeks ago. Let's review the NBA odds and the lastest trends now.

 

Final Analysis
The ability to generate second-chance scoring opportunities via turnovers may be the difference-maker in a contest that may see less-than-stellar shooting on the night. The Bulls force a measly 12.0 turnovers per game, second to the Knicks for fewest in the league, resulting in -3.5 less chances than the league average. The Celtics, on the other hand, create 16.8 per game, getting 2.4 extra looks a contest. Chicago yields roughly four points more per game against teams forcing greater turnovers than the league average (14.7) as opposed to fewer, going 7-9 SU, 3-13 ATS. On the road, they are 0-5 SU and ATS in this situation. Expect the Celtics to take full advantage of the differential. Take Celtics as the NBA Pick.