NBA Picks: Take Banged Up Celtics To Slow Down Streaking Bulls

Jay Pryce

Thursday, January 7, 2016 1:45 PM GMT

The red-hot Bulls host the Celtics in primetime on Thursday night, hoping to notch their seventh victory in the last eight games. Check our betting preview for our free NBA pick.

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NBA Pick: Celtics +5
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

 

Celtics vs. Bulls
The red-hot Bulls host the Celtics in primetime on Thursday night (8 p.m. ET), hoping to notch their seventh victory in the last eight games. Boston, meanwhile, suffering from a string of petty injuries all season, have lost three of its last four with its backcourt banged up.

 

Boston Celtics
The Celtics (19-16 SU, 20-15 ATS) are expected to be without SG Avery Bradley for a second straight game after he sustained a hip bruise in Sunday’s 103-94 victory over the Nets. Star PG Isaiah Thomas, who sat out of Tuesday’s practice prior to the team's 99-94 defeat to the Pistons last night, is also dealing with a slight sprain in his left thumb.

Evan Turner, who averages 12.5 points per game in a little more than 27 minutes per night, is filling in for Bradley, but doesn't offer the same shooting prowess. In four games Bradley has missed this year, Boston is averaging nearly 4.8 points below what the betting market predicts, and the overall total has stayed UNDER in each.

If you’re worried about the Celtics being tired following its home encounter against Detroit last night, don’t be. Under coach Brad Stevens, they are 14-6 ATS when playing on zero days rest on the road following a home game.

 

Chicago Bulls
The Bulls (21-12 SU, 14-19 ATS) were a train wreck early in the year, fishing for some sort of team identity under new coach Fred Hoiberg. But the situation is growing brighter in Chicago with the team piecing together its first five-game win streak since last season. The Bulls are 10-4 SU in their last 14 games.

Jimmy Butler is clearly the go-to for the Bulls under Hoiberg, averaging a team best 22.1 points per game. But PG Derrick Rose is still the most talented player when fully healthy and utilized correctly, and his shooting performance it often instrumental in Chicago's success. The Bulls are 9-3 SU, 7-5 ATS when he scores more than his 14.4 average in a game, as opposed to 8-8 SU, 4-12 against the NBA odds when he fails to eclipse this mark.

The 2011 MVP, who missed three straight games to a sore right knee prior to returning in Chicago’s 117-106 victory over the Bucks last time out, is showing signs of improvement of late, posting 15.7 points over the last calendar month as opposed to 13.7 prior.

 

Final Analysis
Expect the Celtics' defense to keep this one close. SF Jae Crowder will likely attempt to matchup with Butler as much as he can defensively. The former Marquette man has held Chicago's leading scorer to just 32 percent from the field. The frontcourt, meanwhile, has held Pau Gasol under 45 percent shooting in past meetings.

Boston's offense has been inconsistent of late, and losing Bradley for another game doesn't help. But the Celtics are a better three-point shooting team, and if they can heat up from behind the arc, than the Bulls will have to fight hard for a victory. Against teams averaging less three pointers made per game on the season, Chicago is 12-4 SU, 8-8 ATS, as opposed to 7-8 SU, 5-10 ATS facing foes with more on the year. Boston comes into this matchup posting 8.9 three's per contest; Chicago 7.8. It's tough to bet against a hot team, but I'll take the points and place a small wager on the Celtics +5 as the sharp NBA pick tonight.