Bulls vs. Knicks Odds
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds via PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.|
The Knicks began to spiral out of control after a hot start, but they’re heading back home after two encouraging road results. They’ll face one of the league’s best teams at the moment, the Chicago Bulls, in a matchup they should thrive in.
Will Chicago’s willingness to take the ball inside and feed the post be its undoing against one of the league’s best interior defenses? Let’s have a look at this matchup at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.
The Bulls cemented themselves as one of the best teams in the NBA, but then came a bit of a funk. The team was bitten by the injury bug, seeing Nikola Vucevic come down with COVID-19, which was followed by Coby White testing positive.
The two of them were crucial pieces on both ends, and it’s no surprise the Bulls enter here the losers of three games in their last five. Chicago has Vucevic back, at the very least, which has been a huge spark.
It’s hard to really pinpoint where the trouble has been for Chicago over the last five games; this team has simply been flat. The Bulls rank 12th in Defensive Efficiency and 13th in Offensive Efficiency while falling to 21st in Rebounding Rate. It doesn’t sound all that bad, but this team is firmly inside the top 10 in both defense and offense, so this is certainly a step back.
One area that has remained a strength is Chicago’s rim protection. They’ve allowed just 62.4% shooting in the restricted area this season — the seventh-best mark in the league — and in the last five games, they actually rank fourth, allowing a 60% field goal percentage. There are few teams that have been better for the season and in the last five games, but the Knicks are one of them.
Chicago also ranks seventh in attempts per game inside the restricted area, but in the last five games ranks 18th in that aspect. This illustrates how the team changed its approach in wake of the injury to Vucevic, and they’re also taking around four more 3s per game in the last five. With Vucevic back in the fold, however, it’s fair to expect more shots to come inside.
New York Knicks
The Knicks are coming off two of their most encouraging games since the very beginning of the season, going to Atlanta and beating a good Hawks team then locking up the Brooklyn Nets in a tight road loss. Now, they return home for another litmus test against Chicago.
The Knicks may have allowed 121.7 points per 100 possessions against Brooklyn, but it’s easy to excuse them with the way James Harden played. In general, judging by the On/Off splits, we can expect this defense to get a lot better with Kemba Walker out of the rotation — maybe even 16 points per 100 possessions better.
The 117.0 Offense Rating that New York posted on a strong Brooklyn defense was definitely encouraging, as was the 97.8 Defensive Rating in Atlanta the game prior.
There were positives to take away from both performances, and while the Knicks continue to alternate wins and losses, it does appear, at least in the last two games, this team is finally starting to progress forward and get out of its slump.
A big storyline here will be the status of RJ Barrett, who was removed from Tuesday’s game with a non-COVID illness. He’s currently listed as questionable, and the Knicks missed his defense down the stretch against the Nets.
The Knicks were playing a lot of Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickley in his absence, which did go well — they were a +9 and a +11 on the floor, respectively.
The Bulls may not be shooting at the rim as much as they have all year long, but that shouldn’t stop the Knicks from a strong showing defensively. Chicago has been very inconsistent on that end but has emphasized scoring inside more frequently with Vucevic back.
The Bulls leaned on their center heavily in their win over the Hornets (he scored 30 points, though 18 came from 3), and DeMar DeRozan took the ball inside plenty en route to 28 points.
If the Bulls try to come inside on the Knicks, it will not go very well for them. Their 3-point shooting is also due to regress a bit after Vucevic and Lonzo Ball combined to go 10-for-11 from three.
I’m going to make this bet with the anticipation that Barrett plays, but be sure to monitor his status in case you want to buy out of this position late.
There is plenty to believe in with this Knicks defense, and it should thrive in a battle in the paint. These are the types of games the Knicks can win, and it was obvious on Tuesday that it was the game they were trying to force the Nets to play.
Pick: Knicks +2 (Play to PK)