A month ago, this looked like a stellar televised matchup on TNT, but as anyone studying the NBA odds will attest, things can change quickly when injuries start piling up and your forced to scramble.
This is where both Oklahoma City (34-27, 30-30-1 ATS) and Chicago (38-23, 28-33 ATS) are at the present time and choosing either for NBA picks is a difficult choice no matter what the point spread and total is on the posted NBA odds board, because the injuries change mechanics of the team and roles have to be adjusted and this does not occur smoothly at times. Here are several points to ponder before using this game for one of your sports picks.
Oklahoma City Has Eye on Future While Looking in Rearview Mirror
The Thunder is in the eighth position in the rough and tumble Western Conference, one game ahead New Orleans and two ahead of Phoenix. Oklahoma City moved up to this spot thanks to being 11-3 since Groundhog’s Day (10-34 ATS), despite having Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in and out of the lineup.
Westbrook is back after suffering a fractured cheekbone, while Durant remains sidelined. OKC unquestionably is pleased to be back in the playoff mix, but it seems they have a larger goal in mind and that would be surpassing San Antonio.
No player or coach will admit this publicly; nevertheless, nobody is going to want to face Golden State in the opening round of the playoffs. The Thunder trails the Spurs by four games in the loss column and while facing Memphis, Portland or Houston would not guarantee a ticket to the conference semi-finals, you would rather face one of them than the Warriors. Scott Brooks team will have chance because San Antonio is on the schedule two more times and they have to keep playing as they have been to place themselves in that position.
As for tonight, Westbrook should be able to dominate Aaron Brooks at guard or whomever he faces and coach Brooks also has more options coming off the bench than Chicago at this time which should work to their advantage.
What Else Could Go Wrong for the Bulls?
First it was Derrick Rose. Next, Taj Gibson ailing ankle finally forced him to the sidelines and he’s in a walking boot and now All-Star Jimmy Butler is gone 3-6 weeks with a sprained also, which at least will not require surgery.
"I guess when it rains, it pours," veteran Kirk Hinrich said. "We can't sit around feeling sorry for ourselves. Nobody else is going to. We've got to find a way." Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau echoed those sentiments.
"It's the nature of the league," Thibodeau said of all the injuries. "No one's going to feel sorry for us. We just got to get out there and we got to get it done."
Thibodeau is a big advocate of “next man up”; the only problem is he’s running out of players that know his system. But if the Chicago is going to hold off onrushing Cleveland in the Central Division, they will need different players to elevate their game like Nikola Mirotic did against Washington two nights ago in scoring 23 points in Chicago victory.
This is not new territory to the Bulls with Rose missing huge numbers of games and other players missing time. The bigger picture suggests you cannot take Rose and Butler out of the lineup and keep winning, thus what Thibodeau will do is literally take it one game at a time and focus on what directly lies ahead.
Betting Odds and Head to Head
The overnight NBA betting odds had the visiting Thunder as four-point favorites with a total of 200. Early this morning, Westbrook and company was down to -3 and the total up slightly to 200.5.
Chicago has been coming out on the short end the last couple years, losing four in a row with only one cover. And as most NBA basketball handicappers who track head to head matchups, if you go back to the Seattle days, the Bulls are 5-12 and 4-13 ATS against the Sonics/Thunder since 1996.
After tonight, the Thunder open up a four-game homestand and it will be spread out over 10 days, giving them time to rest and prepare. Off the win over Philadelphia last night, Oklahoma City is 9-4 and 9-3-1 ATS with no rest, winning by 6.9 points a game.
This contest will conclude the Bulls seven-game homestand in which they are 4-2 and 3-3 ATS. Chicago will play five of the next six on the road starting in Indiana tomorrow and at San Antonio on Sunday, with a home date squeezed in on Monday against Memphis. The Bulls are 19-12 and 14-17 ATS with one day between games.
I greatly admire what Chicago has been dealing with in terms of injuries again, unfortunately they have nobody to stop Westbrook, who had 49 points last night and has four consecutive triple-doubles and Oklahoma City wins and covers in the fourth quarter.
NBA Basketball Free Pick – Oklahoma City -3 at The Greek