The All-Star break is almost here. Which teams will win the final two games before the NBA’s big (just past the) midseason party in the Big Easy? One game looks close; the other doesn’t looks like it will be an NBA betting blowout.
Brooklyn Nets @ Chicago Bulls
Thursday, 8:05 PM ET
NBA Basketball Betting Odds: Chicago -4
This should be a fairly close game, because the Bulls don’t generally blow other teams out. Their offense just isn’t potent enough. Chicago scores an average of only 92.3 points per game. Only one team is worse than the Bulls in this regard, the league-worst Milwaukee Bucks, who check in at 92.2. Chicago just doesn’t have many viable scoring options without Derrick Rose and – due to a subsequent trade – Luol Deng. This team can’t expect to hit a lot of three-point shots. It is going to have to use its rebounding ability to get second-chance points, and it has to find a way to get the ball to the rim. Yet, for all of the Bulls’ struggles on offense, their defense has been able to pick up the slack. Chicago concedes only 92.7 points per game, which is second in the league to the Indiana Pacers, who allow only 90.5 points per game. Chicago is simply a dynamic defensive team because coach Tom Thibodeau insists on it. The Bulls, no matter what combinations of players they have on the floor, play great defense. Thibodeau is a master at getting his players to not only be in the right spots, but rotate and switch in the right ways at the right times. This should enable Chicago to beat Brooklyn at home and cover the point spread.
Pick: Chicago -4
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Los Angeles Lakers
Thursday, 10:35 PM ET
NBA Basketball Betting Odds: Oklahoma City -11.5
The Los Angeles Lakers are a mess. Steve Nash got injured just as soon as he returned to the lineup after a prolonged injury-based absence. So much for Nash’s brief flourish last week, which captured the imagination of a lot of basketball fans and writers. The Lakers just have no good news to point to within the confines of this season. They are, however, mindful of the reality that if they continue to lose over the next two months, the team might fall into a top-five draft pick, a selection of considerable quality that – if paired with a healthy Kobe Bryant – could lead to a highly productive 2014-2015 season. The Lakers just don’t have much of any incentive to win in the first place, but they don’t have the bodies needed to win, anyway. They got trounced by a bad Utah team on Tuesday night at the Staples Center, and when you’re losing by a double-digit margin at home to Utah, you have no other options. Oklahoma City just won at Portland and is playing the best basketball in the league right now, better than Indiana or Miami. The Thunder are getting contributions from numerous sources and would be hard for good teams to stop. The Lakers aren’t even a good team. Oklahoma City should win this game going away.
Pick: Oklahoma City -11.5