The Chicago Bulls can make themselves a beneficiary of the NBA’s revised playoff system, but they still have to battle to get into that situation.
The New York Knicks have put themselves in a position where they could conceivably have home court advantage in a first-round playoff series. At the same time, if they slip they might find themselves in a four-game play-in with Chicago.
Both of these teams have been moving in a better direction of late, and they’ll meet at Madison Square Garden at 7:40PM ET on Wednesday.
Here are the NBA odds posted on the game, as they are posted at BetAnySports:
New York Knicks -5.5
Chicago Bulls +5.5
Over 208.5 Points -110
Under 208.5 Points -110
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The Knicks were riding a nine-game winning streak before they were halted the other night by the Phoenix Suns. Of course, that’s no shame, because the Suns may well wind up with the #1 seed in the Western Conference.
New York (34-28 SU, 39-22-1 ATS) is tied for the #4 East seed with the Atlanta Hawks, but they are just two games ahead of the Celtics and Heat, who are tied for sixth. So the Knicks are not far from having to come into the format as the #7 team, where they could be knocked out in the space of two games.
The Bulls (26-35 SU, 32-28-1 ATS) are a game behind the Washington Wizards for the tenth spot, which is the cutoff. Here is how it will work – the seventh and eighth seed play each other, with the winner slotted at #7. The ninth and tenth-place teams play each other, with the winner playing the loser of that 7-8 game for the final conference playoff spot.
We explain that to illustrate that neither team has anything wrapped up yet, the Bulls even less so.
Both teams have first-year head coaches who have initiated some change. Billy Donovan came over from Oklahoma City and has already won more games than the Bulls won last year. And the team reached out and got a quality big man in a trade, picking up Nikola Vucevic, who played in the NBA All-Star Game, representing Orlando.
The Knicks have responded to Tom Thibodeau’s efforts to instill a defensive culture much faster than most people expected. They are deliberate in terms of “Pace,” ranking 30th (slowest) in the NBA, and they’re 4th in Defensive Rating. They lack somewhat with regard to explosiveness, but Julius Randle, averaging 23.9 points, 10.4 rebounds and six assists, has become one of the more effective players in the NBA, while RJ Barrett has taken a big step forward in his second year, averaging over 17 points and shooting 74% at the line, where he “bricked” last season.
As BetAnySports customers may know, the Bulls will once again be without their leading scorer. Zach LaVine got flagged for COVID, and he has had to go into quarantine. Thus far he’s missed seven games, and while Chicago has won four of those seven games, and have the highest ratio of assists to field goals made during that period, they still are not busting out with scoring options.
And we think that is a problem against a team that can defend the Knicks, who have yielded the lowest overall field goal percentage in the NBA. Not only is New York the best at stopping three-pointers (33.8% allowed), they’re also fifth best in the league in defending two-point shots (allowing just 51.8%).
You’d think that the Bulls would need all the ways it could possibly get to score. Without LaVine, who averages 27.5 points, they don’t. We’d like to explore the total, but we don’t really see the value there. But the Knicks have a chance to shut them down, especially from beyond the arc, and they have gotten the money on a regular basis. We’ll pull the trigger with NEW YORK.
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