Knicks vs. Bulls Odds
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.|
Two of the leagues biggest markets square off on Wednesday night as the 14-13 New York Knicks travel to Chicago to take on the 11-15 Bulls.
Both teams seem likely to hang around that extremely overfilled play-in tier of the Eastern Conference for the majority of the season.
Given how both teams have been playing, seeing Chicago at -4.5 seems a little surprising. The reason would appear to be because Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson is questionable for the game.
Let’s take a look at both teams and see how there still could be some value in the Knicks vs. Bulls odds, regardless of whether Brunson plays.
Defense Sparking Knicks Turnaround
What a difference 10 days can make. On Dec. 4, the Knicks were fresh off a 121-100 spanking by the Dallas Mavericks that really wasn’t even as close as those 21 points suggest.
However, whatever magic elixir the team found since appears to be working. The Knicks have won four in a row and there’s been a notable uptick in defensive effort in that stretch.
They are allowing an average of 93.7 points per game in that stretch, doing so against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets and Sacramento Kings. From Jon Macri of the excellent Knicks Film School: Three of those four point totals have been their opponent’s season low.
If there was no reason behind this jump in defensive production, we could just write it off to the vagaries of a long NBA season. However, it just so happens to coincide with the four highest minute totals this season from defensive pest Miles (Deuce) McBride.
Think Jose Alvarado lite, one of those hounding on-ball defenders who is consistently undervalued across the league. Think of players like Marcus Smart, Alex Caruso and Jevon Carter — players who make the opposing point guard’s life a living hell.
This effort has seemed to rub off on the whole team, with Julius Randle notably playing his best stretch of basketball and R.J. Barrett turning in two of his best games.
Bulls Unlucky in the Clutch
On the other side of the court will be a Bulls team highly motivated to get back on track after one of the craziest losses a team has taken this season.
— 🚁Sky Wob🚁 (@WorldWideWob) December 12, 2022
This season has felt like one long series of tough losses for Chicago. Despite one of the more veteran-heavy rosters in the league — and last year’s clutch king, DeMar DeRozan — the Bulls fell to 0-3 in games decided by one possession and 2-7 in games decided by two possessions or less with Monday’s loss.
If we go strictly by Net Rating, the Bulls should be at or above .500, with a Net Rating of +0.1. Unfortunately, the good luck from last season (over performing their Pythagorean Winning Percentage by six wins) appears to have abandoned the Bulls this season.
What’s even more impressive about that Net Rating is that the Bulls have done that against the second-hardest schedule in the league (per Basketball-Reference through Mondays games). They have a top-eight Defensive Rating and have shown an ability to force a fair amount of turnovers, and make their opponents pay for mistakes.
They still clean the glass pretty well, and are doing a solid job limiting the number of threes their opponents are getting up.
So if the Knicks are potentially going to be without their point guard, a team that forces lots of turnovers and scores efficiently off those turnovers should be in good shape, right?
The Knicks under Tom Thibodeau just don’t turn the ball over much. They rank 23rd this season in most turnovers per game and were 21st last season.
Brunson has been elite in terms of limiting turnovers, but it’s really up and down the roster. In fact, the players most likely to fill Brunson’s role, Immanuel Quickley (2.9), Derrick Rose (2.9) and McBride (1.9) all average fewer turnovers per 100 possessions than Brunson (3.0).
As such, and with the Knicks truly seeming to have unlocked something with this rotation that features McBride, as well as heavy Quentin Grimes minutes, I’m going to go with the New York side of this regardless.
Here’s how I’d play it, though.
I’d lock in about a third of a unit right now at +4.5, and drop another third of unit if the line moves before game time.
If Brunson plays, the line may shift a point or two, but they’ll have their talisman and key player. If he’s out, we might be able to get another point or two, and as noted, even without Brunson, there’s just not many Knicks who are likely to turn the ball over to feed into that pillar of Bulls offense.