CHICAGO BULLS (29-19)
at DENVER NUGGETS (31-18)
Tip-off: Thursday, 10:35 p.m. ET
Line: Denver -6, Total: 196
The Nuggets try to extend their long win streak when the banged-up Bulls pay a visit on Thursday night.
The Bulls have been saddled with a whole host of injuries, and while PG Kirk Hinrich (arm) is out and SG Marco Belinelli (ankle) is doubtful for Thursday's game, PF Carlos Boozer (hamstring) and C Joakim Noah (foot) are both expected to start. Despite the injuries, Chicago has had a decent road trip so far (3-1 ATS, 2-2 SU) and is now 14-8 SU and 13-8-1 ATS (62%) on the road this season. Denver has ripped off seven straight SU victories, going 6-1 ATS during this stretch. The Nuggets have scored at least 102 points in all seven wins, averaging a hefty 113.1 PPG on 49% FG and 37% threes. They have also dominated the Bulls in recent years, winning four of the past five meetings SU and going 7-1 SU (6-2 ATS) in the past eight home games versus Chicago.
Can the Bulls keep the score close versus red-hot Denver on Thursday night? For the answer, connect to NBA Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. For NBA Best Bets, the experts are a collective 12-3 ATS (80%) in the past two days and are 28-15 ATS (65%) in the month of February, with StatFox Dave going 9-4 ATS (69%) over this stretch and StatFox Scott at 9-3 ATS (75%) in his February Best Bets, improving to 55.1% ATS (76-62-1) for the season. For NBA Totals, the experts are an outstanding 37-15 (71%) in the past 12 days with StatFox Gary at 14-4 (78%), StatFox Brian going 12-4 (75%) and StatFox Scott at 11-7 (61%) since Jan. 25. For the season, Scott is a whopping 58.4% (73-52) in Totals, while Gary is a profitable 53.3% (65-57-4).
Chicago boasts the third-best scoring defense in the NBA (91.0 PPG) and ranks second in FG Pct. defense (42.8% FG), but allowed the Pacers to score 111 points on 53% FG in Monday's loss. The Bulls have allowed their opponents to shoot 49% FG (39% threes) in the past three games, which coincides with their best interior defender, C Joakim Noah (12.1 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 2.1 BPG), not being in the lineup. In the past five meetings with Denver, Noah has 10.8 PPG, 13.8 RPG and 2.0 BPG. PF Carlos Boozer (15.7 PPG, 9.6 RPG) returned to action Monday after a three-game absence, and was able to tally 10 points and five rebounds in 23 minutes of action. He's averaged a double-double in his career versus Denver with 16.3 PPG and 10.8 RPG in 25 meetings. Chicago's most important player continues to be leading scorer SF Luol Deng (17.2 PPG, 6.7 RPG). Deng has been slow to recover from a hamstring injury though, shooting just 34.9% FG over his past five games (16.0 PPG, 8.6 RPG). He was 4-for-18 from the floor in Monday's loss to the Pacers, but is scoring 19.2 PPG in his past six meetings with Denver. With SG Marco Belinelli (9.7 PPG; 24 points on Monday) unlikely to play, the backcourt scoring will have to come from PG Nate Robinson (11.8 PPG, 4.0 APG) and SG Richard Hamilton (11.1 PPG). Robinson has flourished in the starting role, averaging 17.0 PPG (7-of-16 threes) and 9.3 APG in the past three games, logging 40+ minutes in each contest. But Hamilton has not surpassed 10 points in any of his past seven games, averaging a paltry 7.3 PPG on 37.7% FG.
The Nuggets come into this one having won seven straight and 14 of 17 since the start of the new calendar year. Denver is averaging 26.4 fast-break PPG during its win streak and is a stellar 21-3 SU (16-8 ATS) at home this season, scoring 108.4 PPG on 47.5% FG at Pepsi Center. The Nuggets have six players averaging double-figures this season led by SF Danilo Gallinari (17.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG). He has been on fire during the seven-game win streak with 20.6 PPG (50% FG) and 5.1 RPG. He's scored at least 22 points in three of his past four games, but shot horribly against the Bulls last season when he was with New York, making 29% FG (17-for-58) and 28% threes. PG Ty Lawson (15.2 PPG, 6.9 APG) has been the team's most valuable player and his numbers during the win streak are even more impressive than his overall numbers: 19.3 PPG (47.4% FG, 43.5% threes), 7.6 APG, 2.4 SPG. In the past two games, Lawson has 20 assists and just two turnovers. SG Andre Iguodala (13.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.6 APG) is shooting a career-low 44.0% FG, but he's made half his shots (31-of-62) in the past five games, averaging 16.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 5.8 APG. SF Kenneth Faried (12.0 PPG, 9.7 RPG) is coming off a double-double (13 pts, 10 reb), while fellow SF Corey Brewer (11.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG) poured in 20 points in Tuesday's win over the Bucks. C JaVale McGee (10.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.0 BPG) had missed three straight games with a lower leg injury, but returned on Tuesday with eight points, five rebounds and four blocks in just 18 minutes of action. He could see significantly more time as the Nuggets try to combat the size of Chicago's big men. PG Andre Miller (8.9 PPG, 5.7 APG) has done an outstanding job of distributing the basketball over the past three games, totaling 20 assists and just two turnovers during this stretch.