Bulls out for quick revenge

It’s the second week in a row I feature the Boston Celtics on the Thursday NBA on TNT game of the night – the Celtics cost me last week when they went off as three-point home favorites against a Los Angeles Lakers team that was terrible on the road. So, of course, I went with the Cs minus the points last Thursday, only to see the Lakers win straight up. But I ended that losing streak at one by taking L.A. -5.5 for Tuesday’s home game with the Hawks, and the Lakers won by eight.

Interestingly, there are three games total on Thursday night and there wasn’t an opening line on any of them as of this writing. Welcome to the land of back-to-backs and nagging injuries! Of the six teams in action on Thursday, only Chicago didn’t play the night before. But there’s no line on Celtics-Bulls thanks to Derrick Rose’s uncertain status (see below). Meanwhile, the Nets visit the Pacers in the one non-TNT game and both play Wednesday night, plus the injury status of Indiana’s Danny Granger is up in the air. And the Clippers visit the Blazers in the TNT nightcap, with both in action on Wednesday and the status of Portland star LaMarcus Aldridge unclear for Thursday (he sat out Wednesday).

How the Teams Enter

Entering Wednesday’s home game with Detroit, which should be a sure win, the C’s had lost two of three. That lone win was over these Bulls on Sunday in Beantown. Rose sat out with his back spasms and his Boston point guard counterpart Rajon Rondo went crazy.

The ironic thing is the Bulls’ defense has been better when backup C.J. Watson has filled in, but, obviously, offensively there is no comparison. Thus, Rondo didn’t have to work very hard on the defensive end on Sunday and had a triple-double: 32 points (season high), 15 assists (season high) and 10 rebounds in one of the best games of the season by any player in Boston’s 95-91 win. The Celtics shot nearly 12 percent better from the field and outrebounded the Bulls – that’s notable considering Boston is No. 29 in rebounding and the Bulls No. 2. It was only Chicago’s sixth loss in 20 road games.

The Bulls bounced back from that effort with a 121-115 home win over the defensively-inept Sacramento Kings on Tuesday, again without Rose. Luol Deng had 23 points and a career- high 11 assists for Chicago, which improved to 10-1 at home. It was Chicago’s season high in points scored (no surprise since the Kings are last in defense) and in points allowed. But that was one of those sandwich letdown games in between back-to-backs with these Celtics. The victory clinched the Eastern Conference coaching spot at the All-Star Game for the Bulls’ Tom Thibodeau.

Betting Story Lines

Obviously the big story is if Rose will play. He saw a specialist on Monday for his back, and the Bulls breathed a massive sigh of relief when there was no structural damage. It’s muscular and, thus, should get better with treatment. Between the bad back and a problem with his left big toe, Rose has missed eight games this season after sitting out six over his first three years. Rose said he was feeling better Tuesday. He could get a pain-killing injection, but the NBA MVP has a fear of needles.

I have no doubt Rose wants to play after what Rondo did to Chicago on Sunday, but it’s going to be a group decision between Rose, Thibodeau and the team’s medical staff. The Bulls don’t leave home again before next weekend’s All-Star Game (vs. Nets, Hawks and Bucks after this one), so it’s not out of the question that Thibodeau would rather just rest Rose until the first game post-break on Feb. 28 vs. New Orleans. Plus, then Thibs wouldn’t have to play Rose in the All-Star Game. But Rose is likely too determined to get on the court to sit out that long. Chicago will remain without shooting Richard Hamilton until after the break.

As for Boston, it won’t have power forward Brandon Bass until after the break – he has been a pleasant surprise after coming over from Orlando for Glen Davis. Keep an eye on Kevin Garnett’s status tonight. He has a hip issue and sat out Wednesday against the Pistons. The injury-prone Garnett amazingly had been the only Celtics starter to play in every game this year prior to Wednesday.

This is the third of four meetings this season and first in Chicago. Other than Sunday’s result, the Bulls won, 88-79, in Boston on Jan. 13. Rose played in that one and had 25 points and seven assists. The Bulls were up 20 midway through the third quarter before nearly blowing the lead. Chicago won both home games with Boston a season ago, each by double figures.

Betting Odds and Key Trends

Chicago will open as the favorite whether Rose plays or not, but he’s good for up to a four-point line movement. When these two played Sunday in Boston, Chicago closed at -1 when it was clear Rose was sitting out. I would expect the Bulls to be about 2.5-3-point favorites if Rose sits and 5.5-6-points favorites if he plays.

The Celtics (all stats entering Wednesday) are 13-14 ATS overall and 5-4 on road. The Bulls are 18-13 ATS overall and 5-6 at home. ‘Over/under’ records: BOS 10-14-3, CHI 16-14-1. The Celtics are 1-4 ATS in past five road games vs. teams with winning home record. The Bulls are 1-4 ATS in past five at home. The home team has covered in four of the past five meetings.

Betting Predictions

I like the Bulls here regardless of whether Rose plays – the veteran Celtics will have tired legs,. Chicago is too proud a team and too good defensively to let Rondo go haywire again. Plus, Thibodeau will have them focused after Sunday’s loss and Tuesday’s terrible defensive effort.

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