CHICAGO BULLS (29-20)
at UTAH JAZZ (28-22)
Tip-off: Friday, 10:35 p.m. ET
Line: Utah -4, Total: 185
Road-weary Chicago wraps up its six-game trip on Friday night with a visit to surging Utah.
The Bulls started the trip going 3-0 ATS, but have allowed 119.5 PPG during back-to-back losses to Indiana on Monday and Denver on Thursday. Despite the severe beating on Thursday, C Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis) was able to return to the court, albeit for just 23 minutes. The Bulls were outclassed in every way, getting outshot 58% FG (opponent season high) to 42% FG, thanks in big part due to getting outscored 64-44 in the paint and 23-6 in fast-break points. The Jazz won their fourth straight home game on Wednesday, pasting the Bucks 100-86. Since the start of 2013, Utah is a stellar 13-5 SU (10-8 ATS). But Chicago has dominated this series recently, going 6-2 (SU and ATS) in the past eight meetings with the Jazz and winning three straight matchups by an average of 12.7 PPG.
Can the Bulls end their long road trip on a high note? 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 13-4 ATS (76%) in the past three days and are 29-16 ATS (64.4%) in the month of February. StatFox Scott is 10-3 ATS (77%) in his February Best Bets, improving to 55.4% ATS (77-62-1) for the season. StatFox Dave is 9-4 ATS (69%) this month and StatFox Gary is 3-0 ATS in the past three days. For NBA Totals, the experts are an outstanding 37-17 (69%) in the past 13 days with Gary at 14-4 (78%), StatFox Brian going 12-5 (71%) and Scott at 11-8 (58%) since Jan. 25. For the season, Scott is a whopping 58% (73-53) in Totals, while Gary is a profitable 53.3% (65-57-4).
Despite the poor defense over the past two nights, Chicago still boasts the third-best scoring defense in the NBA (91.8 PPG) and also ranks third in FG Pct. defense (43.2% FG). But the offense has been decent during this road trip with 96.6 PPG, which is considerably higher than its 93.3 PPG before the long journey. The scoring is led by SF Luol Deng (17.1 PPG, 6.7 RPG), but he's been slumping since returning from a hamstring injury, averaging a mere 15.2 PPG on 34% FG in the past six games. He's made just 8-of-31 shots (26%) during the team's two-game losing skid, but has 18.5 PPG on 45% FG in his past four meetings with Utah. PF Carlos Boozer (15.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG) destroyed his former team in last season's 111-97 home win over the Jazz, scoring 27 points on 13-of-17 FG, and grabbing eight rebounds. But his troublesome hamstring injury that kept him out of three straight games has scaled him back to 22.5 MPG since his return. Despite the limited action, he's still scored 14.0 PPG on 48% FG in these two contests. With SG Marco Belinelli (9.7 PPG) bothered by an ankle injury, Chicago desperately needs SG Richard Hamilton (10.9 PPG) to heat up. He posted a minus-28 rating in Thursday's loss in Denver, making just 1-of-7 shots. He has not surpassed 10 points in any of his past eight games, averaging a paltry 6.6 PPG on 35% FG. With PG Kirk Hinrich (7.0 PPG, 5.2 APG) out indefinitely with an arm injury, PG Nate Robinson (11.9 PPG, 4.0 APG) has flourished in the starting role, averaging 16.3 PPG (10-of-19 threes) and 8.5 APG in the past four games, logging 37.0 MPG in these contests.
Utah is a stellar 19-5 SU (15-9 ATS) at EnergySolutions Arena this season, averaging 100.4 PPG and outshooting opponents 46.1% FG to 42.9% FG. The Jazz are 10-1 SU at home in the 2013 calendar year, scoring 99.4 PPG on 47% FG and 38% threes. In the past two home games, they have shot 50.3% from the floor while grabbing 45.5 RPG. C Al Jefferson (17.1 PPG, 9.6 RPG) has started off February hot with three double-doubles and averages of 16.8 PPG (48% FG), 9.8 RPG and 3.8 APG. And since joining the Jazz, he has scored 25.0 PPG with 11.3 RPG in three meetings with the Bulls. His buddy down low, PF Paul Millsap (14.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG), has shown many skills on both ends of the court in his past three games with 17.0 PPG (50% FG), 6.0 RPG, 4.0 APG, 2.3 SPG and 2.0 BPG. He has also dominated Chicago in the past two seasons with 23.0 PPG (59% FG), 10.5 RPG and 3.0 SPG in the two meetings. PG Randy Foye (11.9 PPG) has assumed a bigger scoring role with PG Mo Williams (12.9 PPG, 6.7 APG) injured. Foye has posted double-figures in 10 straight contests, averaging 15.1 PPG (43% threes) and 3.4 APG. PF Derrick Favors (9.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG) has been a force down low, pulling down 9.8 RPG in his past four games to go along with 9.5 PPG on 48% shooting. C Enes Kanter (6.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG) had a huge game on Wednesday with 17 points and nine rebounds off the bench.