Pick Philadelphia 76ers +16.5 vs. Chicago Bulls

Darin Zank

Saturday, March 22, 2014 1:02 PM GMT

While the Chicago Bulls try to hang on to a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers are trying (or are they?) to avoid some embarrassing NBA history. How should we place our NBA picks in a matchup between two teams with opposing intentions?

The Line
The Bulls are big favorites for a Saturday night game with the Sixers at the United Center (8:05 pm ET, WGN), but is it too much? Here's our breakdown of this game, with a free pick, for what it's worth.

Most NBA odds shops opened Chicago at right around -16 over Philly, with a total of 196. Many books then also bumped the Bulls a half-point, to -16.5, in the early betting.

[gameodds]5/259472/?r-1=43-19-349/us[/gameodds]

The Situation
The Bulls recently won nine of ten games, but have chilled a bit since, going 5-5 over their last ten. Friday night Chicago fell at Indiana 91-79, shooting just 36 percent from the floor, getting out-rebounded 61-43 and failing to cover as a six-point underdog. 

So at 38-31 the Bulls sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings, just a game ahead of fifth-place Brooklyn and two games ahead of sixth-place Washington.

On the other side of this match-up Philly has lost 23 games in a row, after falling at home to New York Friday night 93-92. The Sixers trailed by 17 midway through the fourth quarter, rallied to get within two in the final seconds, but came up just short of overtime. 

Philly shot just 37 percent from the floor Friday, in part because it went 10-for-41 (forty-bleepin'-one!) from 3-point range. 

So the Sixers are now just three losses away from tying the NBA's all-time record for losing streaks. That sorry distinction belongs to the Cleveland Cavaliers of three seasons ago, who lost 26 in a row. 

And yet at 15-54 Philly is still two games behind Milwaukee in the battle for the best odds on getting the top pick in the next NBA draft

But in keeping some recent games close, while getting some big numbers on the betting line, the Sixers have covered the spread in five of their last seven games.

 

Sixers-Bulls By the Numbers
Philly ranks right near the bottom of the league in most important statistical categories, shooting just 43 percent from the floor, 31 percent from 3-point range and 71 percent from the FT line, all while allowing opponents to shoot 47 percent. The Sixers are also getting out-rebounded by four boards per game, which ranks fifth-worst in the league.

Sometimes statistics don't lie.

Chicago isn't too great at shooting the ball, either, hitting at 43 percent from the field and 35 percent from long range, although 77 percent from the line. But on the other end of the court the Bulls are holding opponents to just 43 percent shooting, and they're out-boarding foes by over three per game.

 

Sixers-Bulls Recent History
Chicago leads this season series two games to one. Philly won the first meeting between the teams this season back in November 107-104, taking that game outright as a nine-point underdog. The Bulls then beat the Sixers in Chicago in January 103-78, and again just Wednesday night 102-94 in Philly. Chicago covered that first win as eight-point chalk, but the Sixers covered Wednesday night as 13-point dogs. 

The first meeting this season played OVER a total of 194; the second meeting stayed UNDER 197; and the most recent meeting squeezed OVER 195.

 

Sixers-Bulls Betting Trends
Philly is only 27-42 ATS this season, but 16-16 ATS on the road. 

Chicago is 17-17 ATS at home.

The Sixers are 31-35 on the OVER/UNDERS this season, even though their games have averaged 209 total points, third-most in the league. Obviously, because of its poor defense, oddsmakers have been posting some inflated totals on Philly games.

The Bulls have trended toward the UNDERS this season by a 40-28 margin, as their games have averaged a league-low 185 points.

Chicago is only 1-3 ATS this season when favored by nine or more points. 

Philly is 9-5 ATS this season when dogged by 11 or more points.

Sixers-Bulls Free NBA Pick
Chicago is very likely to win this game; it's probably just a matter of by how much. But for a team that ranks last in the league in scoring at 93 PPG this spread seems like a lot. So despite the losing streak we'll go with Philly and the 16.5 points offered at Pinnacle for our free NBA pick for Saturday.