The Chicago Bulls
look to severely damage the Boston Celtics
’ conference hopes when they meet Thursday night in the Windy City.
TNT will have the 5 p.m. (PT) broadcast from the United Center, right before the only other Thursday game of Portland at Utah.
Chicago (57-20 straight-up, 46-29-2 against the spread) tops Boston and Miami by three games each for the Eastern Conference lead. All three teams have just five games left, so a Bulls win would almost eliminate any Boston chance of overtaking them.
Chicago’s last game was a 97-94 home win over Phoenix on Tuesday. Joakim Noah (ankle) returned after missing three games and Carlos Boozer played despite battling an illness. Both scored 12 points and Derrick Rose had a team-high 19 as he continues his ascension towards league-MVP.
Phoenix trailed by 22 points in the third quarter, but kept cutting down the lead until it was two points late in the fourth. Chicago failed to ‘cover’ as 11-point favorites and is 0-3 ATS in its last three, despite winning all three (four-game winning streak overall).
The 191 combined points scored went ‘under’ the 203 ½-point total. The ‘over’ was 8-1 in Chicago’s previous nine games.
Chicago is 34-5 SU at home, tied with San Antonio for the NBA’s best mark. The Bulls are 23-14-2 ATS at home overall, but 0-4 ATS in their last four.
The Celtics (54-23 SU, 36-39-2 ATS) are trying to right the ship and head into the playoffs playing good basketball. They also want to at least finish ahead of Miami for second in the conference.
Boston has won and ‘covered’ its last two games over Detroit (101-90) and Philadelphia (99-82). Both were at home with the Philly game on Tuesday. The team is 13-9 SU and 9-13 ATS since trading Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City for Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green.
Coach Doc Rivers still has a big issue at center. Krstic (knee) played 18 minutes off the bench last game after missing two contests. He had a solid eight points and six rebounds, but was struggling before his injury.
Jermaine and Shaquille O’Neal are the other center options. Jermaine has started the last two games, but is playing limited minutes after coming off his knee injury. Shaq (calf) has played a grand total of five minutes since Feb. 1 and is listed as doubtful for Thursday.
It has to be hard for Boston to see Perkins doing so well in Oklahoma City, especially with the title window closing real fast for veterans Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
The Celtics are 23-15 SU and 18-20 ATS on the road this year. They went 2-2 SU and 1-3 ATS on a recent four-game trip.
The home team is 3-0 SU and 2-1 ATS in games between Boston and Chicago this year. The Bulls won their only one at home, 90-79 as two-point ‘chalk’ on January 8. Noah and Garnett both missed that contest, which easily went ‘under’ the 187-point total.
The ’under’ is 9-3 in the last 12 meetings in Chicago overall.
Noah presents a lot of problems for Boston on the boards with his quickness and hustle as neither Jermaine O’Neal nor Krstic can keep up with him. This is always a great matchup too between point guards Rose and Rajon Rondo. Rose has the strength advantage and had 36 points in the home win.
Chicago is not reporting any significant injuries, while Boston only has the Shaq situation.
Both teams return to the hardwood on Friday night. Boston is home versus Washington, while Chicago is at Cleveland.