Resurging Bulls to Cover vs. Raptors in Tonight's Game

David Lawrence

Thursday, November 13, 2014 3:25 PM GMT

Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014 3:25 PM GMT

The Chicago Bulls are off to a solid start at 6-2, with one of their losses coming against the Cleveland Cavaliers. But surprisingly, the Toronto Raptors (7-1) have been better than both of those teams. The Bulls find themselves as a 2.5-point road dog on the NBA betting lines on Thursday.

The Chicago Bulls Can Win Because…
Their defense is tough enough and experienced enough to handle the Raptors’ young wings. Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry make for a very talented perimeter tandem, but Chicago’s calling card under head coach Tom Thibodeau is defense. Chicago lives to play the kind of defense that takes all the air out of an opponent. The Bulls haven’t even hit their stride this season, but they’ve allowed under 99 points per game, placing them at number 14 in the NBA in scoring defense. Considering the fact that Derrick Rose, a very strong and energetic perimeter defender, has not played consistent minutes for this team – choosing to sit out a few games to think about his health in the long run – Chicago’s defense has achieved really well.

Where the Bulls have been a lot better than expected is on offense. Thibodeau is not an offensive coach, and yet Chicago has averaged 104 points per game through its first eight contests, placing sixth in the entire NBA. Jimmy Butler’s been great for the Bulls in the early part of the season, averaging 19.5 points per game. New arrival Pau Gasol from the Los Angeles Lakers is averaging just over 11 rebounds per game to make sure the Bulls get more possessions than their opponent in a game. Chicago is 10th in the league in assists with 22.6, which tells you that this team knows how to move the ball to get a good shot. There’s so much in place for the Bulls, and what’s even better for them is that they’re just getting started.

 

The Toronto Raptors Can Win Because…
They're going to be a lot more focused and motivated to play this game, compared to their last one. On Tuesday, the Raptors – playing at home – trailed the Orlando Magic, 83-72, entering the final period. The Raptors rallied to win the game by outscoring Orlando, 32-17, in the final quarter, but the larger truth of those 48 minutes was that Toronto was flat. Going up against the Chicago Bulls, one of the teams that has been talked about as an Eastern Conference championship contender more than anyone else other than the Cleveland Cavaliers this season, Toronto is going to give maximum effort here. The Raptors, playing at home, should display a lot of energy from the start of this contest.

What Toronto will really like about this matchup is that Chicago has not yet become a top-five defensive team in the NBA. The Bulls are still trying to settle into their defensive rotations under Thibodeau and put their game plan into action. Combined with Chicago’s relative weakness is the fact that the Raptors average 107 points per game, the best in the NBA and more than any of the powerful teams from the Western Conference. DeMar DeRozan is averaging 21.9 points per game for Toronto. Teammate Kyle Lowry is averaging 18. This is a loaded offensive team at the moment, against a defense that hasn’t yet grown.

 

Outlook
The Bulls are going to get better on defense – it’s just a matter of time. Toronto, meanwhile, seems a little distracted and weighed down by the pressure of having to defend last season’s division title. This feels like an opening for Chicago on Thursday. Take them on the NBA odds spread with your NBA picks.

NBA Pick: Chicago +2.5 at 5Dimes

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