Lakers vs. Bulls Preview: Depleted Rosters Will Struggle To Score

Austin Wang previews Sunday's NBA game between the Lakers and Bulls, including betting odds and a prediction.

Lakers vs. Bulls Odds

Lakers Odds +5.5
Bulls Odds -5.5
Over/Under 214.5 (-110 / -110)
Time 8 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds via PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Chicago Bulls play their first game in more than a week on Sunday when they host the Los Angeles Lakers. This should have been a marquee matchup, but it looks it could be a dud as both teams have been hit hard with the recent league-wide outbreak of COVID-19 protocols.

The Bulls’ last game was against the Miami Heat back on December 11. This past week, the absences were so bad that the league had to postpone the Bulls’ games on Tuesday and Thursday.

The Lakers are struggling with their own outbreak issues on top of Anthony Davis suffering a sprained MCL in his knee that will keep him out for at least the next four weeks. In addition to a short rotation, the Lakers will be fatigued as they are capping off a three-game road trip and are playing in their fifth road game out of their last six games.

Let’s see if we can navigate through these understaffed squads and injury reports to find an edge for Sunday night’s game.

Lakers’ Rotation In Flux

The Lakers will be missing the following players due to health and safety protocols: Dwight Howard, Talen Horton-Tucker, Malik Monk, Austin Reaves and Avery Bradley. They will also be without the services of Davis.

The Lakers will be without many key rotation pieces, but they will still have two of their stars, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook.  However, both players struggled on Friday night in an embarrassing loss against a short-handed Minnesota Timberwolves team. They’ll now need to count on DeAndre Jordan and Carmelo Anthony to round out their squad, which doesn’t give me much confidence.

They will need to rely on their defense as their Offensive Rating has been a league-worst (30th) in their previous five games, per NBA Advanced Stats. They will be able to focus their defensive efforts against DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic since Zach LaVine will still be out. I have a concern that recent acquisition Isaiah Thomas will be a huge hindrance on the Lakers’ defensive efforts.

The Lakers have gone under the total in six straight games. I find it likely that this trend will continue on Sunday night.

Bulls Back After Lengthy Pause

DeRozan, Javonte Green and Coby White have all been cleared from protocol, but the Bulls will still be without LaVine, Ayo Dosunmu, Alize Johnson and Tony Bradley Jr. Will Chicago be rusty or well-rested after their time off?

I think it is more likely they will be rusty. DeRozan and White are two of their best scorers and both tested positive for COVID-19. Both players have been practicing and working on their conditioning, but I don’t think they will be in 100% game shape right off the bat.

Alex Caruso will be the main beneficiary for minutes with LaVine out of the lineup. Vucevic and Lonzo Ball are both strong defenders who will get more usage with their thin roster.

The Bulls have gotten by with their strong defense this season, ranking eighth in Defensive Rating (106.8) for the season. I expect this to continue against a Lakers team that has really struggled to score.

Lakers-Bulls Pick

With the long list of players that will be out for this game and the uncertainty with the recent outbreak of  COVID-19 protocol violations throughout the league, I am not in any rush to be betting this particular game.

The under appears to be the best look. The Lakers are dealing with severe issues on offense and haven’t been able to find any chemistry all year long. They are fatigued from a road trip and are dealing with COVID-19 issues of their own. On the other hand, the Bulls will be missing one of their best scorers in LaVine and will likely be rusty from their extended time off.

I see this set up nicely for a potential low-scoring game. With so much going on off the court, I do not anticipate these teams will have as much interest in pushing too hard. The current total of 214.5 seems generous as I have this projected in the low 210s.

Pick: Under 214.5 (down to 213)