Bulls vs. Celtics Betting Preview: Trends Indicate Value on Total

Action Network contributor Andrew O'Connor-Watts previews the NBA game between the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics and offers up a betting pick.

Bulls vs. Celtics Odds

Bulls Odds +7
Celtics Odds -7
Over/Under 223 (-110/-110)
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via WynnBet. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The last meeting between the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics saw the Bulls come away with an easy 120-102 victory at home.

Since then, the Celtics have gone 1-2 SU/ATS and haven’t looked like the juggernaut that started the season 3-0, in large part due to their diminished defense. However, they are 2-1 ATS at home this season and that’s exactly where they’ll be on Friday night.

Meanwhile, the Bulls have gone 3-2 SU/ATS and defense has been a big part of their success as the offense has dropped off since last season.

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Chicago Bulls

Few were expecting the Bulls to come out with such force against the reigning Eastern Conference champs (myself included) in last month’s matchup. Chicago cruised past the Celtics by exploiting their lack of size and depth in the front court, getting out in transition, attacking the rim and getting to the free-throw line.

The Bulls’ ability to get out in transition might be a bit of an anomaly. On the season, they rank 16th in Points Per Play Off Steals (140), 23rd in Points Per Play Off Live Rebounds (107.8) and 17th in overall transition offense (123.7).

Last game, they were in the 83rd percentile (200) Off Steals, in the 75th percentile Off Live Rebounds (150) and in the 85th percentile on Points Per Play in overall transition offense (161.5).

While the Celtics do rank surprisingly well in both preventing shots at the rim (fourth in the league) and defending them (ninth), the Bulls got to the rim with ease in their prior matchup.

The Bulls ranked in the 95th percentile in shots at the rim (48%), but to the Celtics’ credit, the Bulls converted on just 52.8% of their attempts within four feet of the hoop.

Although the Bulls didn’t convert much, their ability to attack down low led to trips to the charity stripe. Per Cleaning the Glass, the Bulls Free-Throw Rate of 31.3 in that game ranked in the 94th percentile on the season.

Boston Celtics

After starting the season 3-0, the Celtics have hit a bit of a skid. They’ve dropped three of their past four games, including one to the Bulls and two to the Cavaliers in overtime.

Part of their struggles have been due to the aforementioned lack of depth in the front court. With Robert Williams sidelined until at least January (likely more), the Celtics are without their defensive anchor down low, which leaves a rotation of Al Horford, Noah Vonleh and Luke Kornet to share the big man responsibilities.

Horford is no slouch, especially defensively, but he’s not getting any younger and is coming off a season in which he played 92 games between the regular season and postseason.

Despite having the NBA’s best defense last season, the Celtics rank just 22nd in Defensive Rating this year. However, their offense has been elite, ranking fifth overall (116.9).

What sets the offense apart is its ability to shoot 3-pointers, and that’s the area Boston will need to exploit if it wants to come away with a win.

The Celtics shoot the most 3s of any team this season as 44.2% of their shots come from deep. But they’re not just shooting them, they’re also making them. The Celtics rank 11th in 3-point percentage (38%), which is key considering the Bulls defense is third-worst at defending the 3-point line (41.3% allowed).

Bulls-Celtics Pick

The Bulls have been the better ATS team in this head-to-head matchup (6-4 in the past 10) and 3-1 since last season. There isn’t quite enough of an edge for me at 7.5, but if this gets to 8 or 8.5 I would feel confident in a bet on the Bulls.

In the meantime, I’ll go with the under, which has hit in six of their past eight meetings. There’s also a trend going back to last season that I like — the Celtics are 25-17 to the under following an ATS loss (59.5%), while the Bulls are 29-22 to the under off an ATS win (56.9%).

Pick: Under 223 (-110) Lean: Chicago +8.5 or better