Nets vs. Bulls Preview: Chicago Has Value as Short Home Favorite

Action Network NBA betting analyst Austin Wang previews Monday night's matchup between the Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets.

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Nets vs. Bulls Odds

Nets Odds +1
Bulls Odds -1
Over/Under 216.5
Time 8 p.m. ET
Odds via PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Brooklyn Nets started the season off slow but don’t look now, they have reeled off five wins in a row and are now 7-3. They travel to Chicago on Monday night to face the 6-3 Bulls, who have surprised the league with their fast start.

The Bulls started the season off 6-1 before dropping consecutive games to the Philadelphia 76ers. They have the rest advantage over the Nets are off two days’ rest and have homecourt advantage as well.

Can the Bulls capitalize on these edges and continue this solid start? Let’s explore the matchup below.

The Nets Are Quietly Improving

Last season, the Nets were known for their potent offense behind superstars Kevin Durant and James Harden. Surprisingly enough, the Nets have been winning this season with their defense, ranking sixth in Defensive Rating (103.4) in the league, per NBA Advanced Stats.

One main contributor is Bruce Brown, who was inserted into the starting lineup four games into the season. The Nets have gone 6-1 during those games he has started. He brings defense, hustle and energy to a starting lineup and is a perfect complement to Durant and Harden. The On/Off numbers show the Nets’ Defensive Rating improves from 108.8 to 98 when he is on the court, per Basketball Reference.

Harden has still been struggling with his shot, but he had a breakthrough game against the Raptors (10-20 shooting from the field). He is still averaging 4.8 free throw attempts per game, much lower than the 7.3 he averaged last season. Besides a 19-attempt outburst against the Pacers, he has not attempted more than six free throws in a game.

Due to the new NBA rules implemented to prevent players from drawing fouls with “non-basketball” moves, Harden is not getting the calls he is used to, as evidenced in the video below. As a result of not getting calls, he gets frustrated and tends to slack off on defense and becomes very passive in the offense.


Durant has been lights out and he will be the key to the Nets winning this game. He has been consistent, averaging 28.6 PPG on 57.3% shooting from the field. After losing Patrick Williams for the season, the Bulls will need to be creative with their defensive personnel to contain Durant.

The Nets will be in an unfavorable scheduling spot on Monday night. It will the second night of a back-to-back and their fourth game in six nights. In addition, this will be third game of a six-game road trip. I believe fatigue could play a part in a potential let-down spot.

Resurgent Bulls In Great Situational Spot

The Bulls have shocked the NBA with their excellent play to start the season, which include a win against the Utah Jazz and a comeback win against the Boston Celtics after outscoring them 39-11 in the fourth quarter. They rank top-10 in Offense Rating (ninth — 108.9) and Defensive Rating (seventh — 103.6), per NBA Advanced Stats.

DeMar DeRozan has had a resurgence in his career. He leads the team in points per game (26.8) and has exceeded 30 points in three games. He joins Zach LaVine to give the Bulls a potent offensive attack that will put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses.

Nikola Vucevic is having an off year, averaging 13.4 points per game off 38% shooting from the field. He has had to face off against Joel Embiid or Rudy Gobert in three of his past four games. I expect him to turn it around and he should be able to exploit the middle against Blake Griffin.

Favorites off two consecutive losses playing against a team off a win (in which they were favored) have gone 162-115-2 ATS (58.5%) since the 2015-2016 season, per the Sports Data Query Language at Gimme the Dog. Teams in this situation tend to have a bounce-back spot, especially against a team off a win.

Nets-Bulls Pick

It is difficult not to pick the Nets as underdogs, but I think this is a let-down spot for the fatigued Nets. They are on the second night of a back-to-back and are in the middle of a long road trip.

Away underdogs with no rest off two consecutive road wins are 42-74-1 (36.2%) against the spread since the 2010-2011 season, per the Sports Data Query Language at Gimme the Dog. This is active as a fade against the Nets. These teams tend to struggle, especially on the second game of a back-to-back set.

On the other hand, the Bulls are looking to bounce back from their consecutive losses against the 76ers and show the NBA that their hot start was not a fluke. After including the Nets’ fatigue factor, I make the line on this game -3. I would play the Bulls up to -2.

Pick:  Bulls -1 (up to -2)