Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to March 29 inclusive:
The Chicago Bulls don’t seem to think there’s a problem. But the NBA betting lines beg to disagree. The Bulls have gone 4-3 SU and 1-6 ATS in their past seven games; they were flattened 91-74 on Friday night by the Portland Trail Blazers (+4.5 away), who cruised despite getting just five points out of the returning LaMarcus Aldridge. Chicago couldn’t capitalize, going 3-of-17 from downtown while attempting just seven free throws.
“Today is just a bump in the road,” Joakim Noah told reporters after the loss. “It’s the NBA,” Carlos Boozer shrugged. “Just one of those nights,” Mike Dunleavy echoed. At least they’re not taking themselves too seriously. We’ll see how resilient the Bulls are when they visit the Boston Celtics on Sunday; the C’s are 4.5-point puppies on the NBA odds board with a total of 184.
I’m Totally Tired
Not to burst their bubble, but the Bulls (40-32 SU, 35-37 ATS) have been having a few too many of those nights recently. They’ve put up some of their worst statistics of the season this past month. Let’s go to the NBA’s own advanced stats, where they’ve broken down the famed Four Factors for us:
February (13 games): 47.7 eFG%, 0.315 FTA Rate, 17.6 TO Ratio, 29.3% OREB%
March (14 games): 46.7 eFG%, 0.282 FTA Rate, 13.9 TO Ratio, 24.3% OREB%
Chicago’s done a better job of hanging onto the ball this month; otherwise, production levels are down across the board. But you knew that already. This is just more evidence to support the theory that the overworked Bulls are tiring down the stretch. At least Jimmer Fredette (16.4 PER) got to play four minutes against the Blazers. He was Chicago’s only “plus” player at plus-five.
I Am Stuck on Band-Aid
While the Bulls have been sitting under trees and sniffing flowers, the Celtics (23-49 SU, 36-35-1 ATS have been beating the basketball odds. They held the Toronto Raptors (–9.5 at home) close enough to grab the cash in Friday’s 105-103 loss – that’s eight losses in nine games the Celtics, but they’re 5-4 ATS during this slump, and 9-5 ATS over the past month. Ka-ching.
I’ve had some good things to say about the Celtics recently. You can’t argue about their hustle; Rajon Rondo (15.0 PER) suffered a giant gash over his nose after getting clipped with an elbow in the first game of Boston’s home-and-home with the Raptors. Eight minutes and nine stitches later, Rondo was back on the court. Don’t tell him he’s supposed to tank the season.
Yup, there’s plenty to like about the Celtics in this matchup. But there’s one thing that’s missing: a center. The Bulls are 3-2 SU and 4-1 ATS against Boston the past two years; on Jan. 2, Joakim Noah (20.2 PER) came one assist shy of a triple-double in a 94-82 victory, giving Chicago the payday as a 5-point home fave. Jared Sullinger (16.5 PER) had a double-double of his own, but he was overmatched at center.
We’ve seen a few different lineups from the C’s this year, sometimes with Sullinger starting at center, sometimes with Kris Humphries (18.2 PER) or Kelly Olynyk (14.0 PER) or the injured Vitor Favernai (11.1 PER). Noah is a tough matchup for any of these gentlemen. He was even a tough matchup for Kevin Garnett before the Big Ticket left town. I can see Noah and the Bulls continuing to do what they’ve been doing against Boston. But I’m worried about their gas tank. So I’ll once again defer to the UNDER, which is 4-0 in Chicago’s last four games. May the sphere be with you.
NBA Pick: Take UNDER 184 (–104) at Marathon