CHICAGO BULLS (9-15)
at OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (20-4)
Tip-off: Thursday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Line: Oklahoma City -13, Total: 192
The ailing Bulls try to stop the Thunderís current seven-game winning streak when they travel to Oklahoma City on Thursday night.
Chicago has struggled mightily since losing PG Derrick Rose for the season, and is 3-10 SU in his absence. The Bulls have lost six of their past seven games with their only win coming against the Bucks, the worst team in the NBA (5-20 record). On Wednesday night, Chicago traveled to Houston, losing 109-94 and failing to cover the 8-point spread for its seventh straight ATS defeat. The Thunder have been the complete opposite lately and are 15-1 SU (11-5 ATS) in their past 16 games, including a seven-game SU winning streak where they have defeated their opponents by an average of 14.7 PPG (110.3 to 95.6) in those contests. The Thunder went on the road Tuesday night and defeated the Nuggets 105-93, easily covering the 2.5-point spread as the favorite. The Bulls are 3-10 (both SU and ATS) in road games this season, and will have a tough time on Thursday as the Thunder have not lost SU (12-0) on their home court while going 7-5 ATS. Oklahoma City has won each of the past three games (both SU and ATS) against Chicago and most recently defeated them by 30 points (102-72) on Feb. 24. The Bulls shot only 29.1% from the field in that game, including 4-for-18 from behind the arc. Although double-digit road underdogs who have a win pct. between 25% to 40% are 46-18 ATS (72%) in the past five seasons after being beaten by the spread by 18+ total points in a three-game stretch, the Thunder are 43-24 ATS (64%) when playing six or more games in a 10 day-stretch over the past three seasons. Besides Derrick Rose, Bulls PG Kirk Hinrich, who is questionable with back problems, is the only injury concern for this game.
Will the Thunder roll to an easy victory on Thursday night? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The five experts are streaking at 61% ATS (35-22) on Best Bets in December, including 9-1 ATS since Monday. During this timeframe, StatFox Zach has a stellar 92% ATS mark (11-1) and is currently 60% ATS (22-15) on Best Bets for the season. StatFox Dave has an excellent 75% ATS (9-3) Best Bets record in December and is 53% ATS (19-17) on Best Bets for the season.
The Bulls have had no answers on the offensive side of the ball and are averaging only 91.3 PPG (3rd worst in NBA) this season. During their seven-game ATS skid, they have scored a pathetic 81.6 PPG on 37.8% FG (27.8% threes). Their defense has continued to keep them in games though, allowing 93.1 PPG (3rd in league) on 42.9% FG (4th in NBA). SF Luol Deng (19.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG) has scored 23.6 PPG over five December games and has become the Bulls No. 1 offensive weapon. Deng has scored 16.2 PPG (47% FG) with 4.8 RPG in 12 career games versus the Thunder. PF Carlos Boozer (14.9 PPG, 9.1 RPG) is another player the Bulls need to step up, but he is averaging only 11.4 PPG on 36% FG in his past five games. He has averaged 19.3 PPG and 10.6 RPG in 27 career games against Oklahoma City, but scored only 5.5 PPG (4-of-14 FG) and grabbed 9.0 PPG in two games against them last season. C Joakim Noah (10.1 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 3.5 APG) scored only six points while grabbing 10 rebounds in the Bulls' loss to the Rockets on Wednesday night, but has put up 8.3 PPG with 9.9 RPG against the Thunder in his career (11 games, 8 starts). SG Jimmy Butler (11.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.8 SPG) went off on Wednesday night when he scored 20 points on 8-of-15 FG, a much better performance than the game before when he was just 1-for-11 from the floor in a home loss to Orlando.
Oklahoma City has been scorching opposing defenses this season, and is averaging the fourth-most points in the NBA at 105.6 PPG. The team has really turned it on recently with 110.3 PPG on 50% FG during a current seven-game winning streak. During that streak, the Thunder have also improved defensively, allowing only 95.6 PPG on 40% FG to their opponents in the seven games. For the season, they give up only 98.5 PPG (9th-fewest in NBA) on a meager 42.0% FG (2nd-lowest in league). SF Kevin Durant (28.6 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.5 SPG) is once again leading the NBA in scoring. He has netted 27+ points in nine of 10 December games, and has been a defensive force this month too with 2.0 SPG and 1.6 BPG. Durant has averaged 24.8 PPG (47% FG) with 7.6 RPG in 11 career games against the Bulls, which includes his 19 points, 16 rebounds and six assists in his last game against them. PG Russell Westbrook (21.0 PPG, 6.7 APG, 5.8 RPG, 1.9 SPG) is back to form after recovering from an April knee injury, coming off a near triple-double (21 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists) in the Thunderís most recent win against the Nuggets on Tuesday. His career numbers in nine games against Chicago are very similar to what he is putting up now, as he is averaging 19.7 PPG, 6.2 APG and 4.9 RPG while generating 17 steals (1.9 SPG). PF Serge Ibaka (14.6 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 2.3 BPG) has at least one block in each of his past 17 games played and has 12 double-doubles on the season. He did great in the two meetings with the Bulls last season, scoring 19.0 PPG and grabbing 9.5 RPG while blocking seven shots (3.5 BPG). PG Reggie Jackson (12.0 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.5 APG) has scored double-digit points in 9-of-10 games in December, while SG Jeremy Lamb (9.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG) has provided the team with a spark off the bench.