Could be two tired teams tonight as the Bulls host the Nets in the second of a back-to-back for both clubs. Streaking Chicago is an 11-point favorite on NBA odds with a total of 196.5.
New Starting 5 Clicking for Nets
Brooklyn beat visiting Sacramento on Monday night 107-99 for its fourth win in the past five games. That could have been a bit of a showcase game for Nets point guard Deron Williams as there's been talk the Kings were interested in trading for him. However, the deal fell apart for now because Sacramento also wanted young big man Mason Plumlee and the Nets won't deal him.
Plumlee is playing so well at the moment he has relegated former All-Star center Brook Lopez to the bench since Lopez returned from injury. Plumlee led the Nets with 22 points against the Kings. He is averaging 17.0 points and 9.8 rebounds in the past five games. Lopez has been back for four games from injury and hasn't played more than 15 minutes yet.
In fact, the Nets are paying Lopez and Williams a combined $35 million or so this season to now come off the bench. Since Williams returned from his own injury he hasn't been able to displace Jarrett Jack in the starting five. Jack had 16 points on Monday and is averaging 19.4 points, 5.4 assists and 4.2 rebounds in the past five. Williams has been back for three games and hasn't played more than 21 minutes yet and has totaled 21 points in those games.
Because this game is the second of a back-to-back, it's possible the Nets rest 124-year-old Kevin Garnett. He doesn't always get a second game in 24 hours but sometimes does. Garnett had 10 points and eight rebounds against the Kings.
The Nets are 15-15 against the spread and 12-18 'over/under' on NBA odds.
The Bulls finally have all their top guys healthy at the same time and it's showing as Chicago looks like the best team in the NBA at the moment. The Bulls won 92-90 at Indiana on Monday for their seventh straight win -- longest current streak in the league -- and 10th in the past 11. Jimmy Butler is a lock to be the NBA's Most Improved Player this season, barring injury, but he needs to start being considered for league MVP as well. He had another monster game Monday with 27 points, including the go-ahead 3 -pointer with 1:07 left that put Chicago ahead for good. The Bulls had blown a 21-point third-quarter lead.
Butler, who leads the NBA in minutes played per game at 40.1, is averaging 22.2 points per game. His 9.1-point increase from last season to this season is the biggest points-per-game increase in the NBA. Monday was Butler's 20th 20-point game of the year -- he entered this season with nine career. Butler also is a fantastic defensive player. The Bulls low-balled him on an extension back in October and Butler and his agent smartly declined. Now he's going to get the maximum as a restricted free agent.
Butler will be an All-Star. So should be Pau Gasol, who has been rejuvenated by his move to Chicago. Gasol had 20 points and six rebounds vs. Indiana and is averaging 17.9 points and 11.2 rebounds. Backup point guard Kirk Hinrich has missed four straight games with a hamstring injury but could return for this one.
With the way Cleveland is scuffling, the Bulls are the team to beat in the East. However, the Cavs remain +120 East favorites on NBA odds at sportsbooks with the Bulls at +220. Chicago is 15-16 against the NBA betting spread this season and 16-14-1 'over/under.'
The Bulls have won two blowouts against the Nets in 2014. On Nov. 30 in Brooklyn the Bulls were 2.5-point favorites at sportsbooks and won 102-84. Butler led Chicago with 26 points and Gasol had 25 points and 13 rebounds. Derrick Rose had 14 points. That was the final game of Chicago's seven-game, two-week "Circus Trip." Taj Gibson missed it with an ankle injury. The Nets shot only 37.2 percent and their leading scorer was rookie Bojan Bogdanovic with only 13 points.
On Dec. 10 in the Windy City, the Bulls were 11-point favorites on NBA odds and rolled 105-80. It was tied at the half but the Nets managed only 29 points after intermission and shot 26.6 percent from the field in the final two quarters. All five Bulls starters reached double-figure points. Rose had 23 and Gasol 16 points and 16 rebounds. Williams led Brooklyn with 17 points. The Nets played without Lopez, Joe Johnson and Mirza Teletovic due to injury or illness. Joakim Noah was out for the Bulls.
NBA Free Picks: Brooklyn +11 and 'under' 196.5 points.
We are taking Brooklyn as our NBA pick cause the Bulls will win as they have taken 16 of the past 19 meetings at the United Center but those are too many points to give. The 'under' is 5-0 in the past five meetings. Chicago has covered only one of its past seven Tuesday games. The Nets are 5-2 ATS in their past seven on the road.