Free NBA Picks: Bulls at Nuggets Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 11/20/2013
Sometimes no matter how good two teams are, even if one is championship-caliber and the other lousy, it can be hard for the better team to win in a city. For example, it was always tough to win in Miami even before LeBron James and Chris Bosh arrived because the opposing players generally liked to enjoy South Beach until the wee hours of the morning. The Knicks request Sunday afternoon games because they believe they have an advantage that is New York City on a Saturday night for visiting players.
Denver has always had one of the NBA's best home-court advantages because of the altitude. It's never easy to win there and why the Nuggets are always a high-paced team because it suits their advantage 41 nights a year. I bring this up because Chicago visits Denver for the only time this season in the nightcap of the TNT doubleheader on Thursday. The Bulls have won once in their past 13 trips to the Mile High City. Even the greatest regular-season team in NBA history, the 72-win 1995-96 Bulls team, lost in Denver on Feb. 4, 1996. In fact, MJ & Co. were down a whopping 68-43 at halftime before making it respectable in a 105-99 loss. That dropped Chicago to 41-4 and started its only losing streak of the season. Two days later Chicago lost in Phoenix and would only drop five more games the rest of the season.
Thursday's game starts Chicago's season-high six-game road trip necessitated by the annual visit of the circus to the United Center (Blackhawks on a long trip as well).
Bulls at Nuggets Betting Story Lines
The Bulls are winning -- their first five-game winning streak since Feb. 20-March 7, 2012 -- but I wouldn't say they are hitting on all cylinders yet. They beat visiting Charlotte 86-81 on Monday in their last game but shot only 36 percent from the field. The Bobcats attempted 16 more shots. The difference was the Bulls outscored Charlotte by 18 points at the free-throw line. Luol Deng saved the Bulls with 21 points, including a key late three-pointer.
Derrick Rose wasn't particularly good in the game, going 4-for-13 from the field for 12 points and only three assists. He believes he's close to returning to form, but he doesn't look anything like a former MVP yet other than in Saturday's win over previously unbeaten Indiana. Rose is shooting.344 from the field and averaging 15.0 points and 3.5 turnovers per game. He's also now dealing with a bit of a sore hamstring.
Chicago starting shooting guard, Jimmy Butler, hurt his toe in Monday's game but played through it. However, he didn't practice Tuesday and was seen in a walking boot. X-rays were negative, but he was set to have an MRI. There was no diagnosis as of this writing, but it would be a minor upset if he plays Thursday. Butler has been solid, averaging 11.2 points and 4.8 rebounds. Both Mike Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich would see a big uptick in minutes, with one of them starting, if Butler sits. Marquis Teaque might even get off the bench since the Bulls won't be able to use Hinrich to spell Rose. Teaque, a former first-round pick, has played 11 total minutes this season.
The Nuggets started 0-3 under first-year coach Brian Shaw then won four of five before dropping their past two in Houston and Oklahoma City. Denver has scored in triple-digits in every game since that 0-3 start, so it will be interesting to see how the Nuggets fare against the NBA's No. 2 defense. Denver isn't a good defensive team, allowing 105.6 points per game (28th), so that could be just what a struggling Bulls offense needs.
This will also be Chicago's first look at Nate Robinson, who became a fan-favorite and played extremely well, especially in the playoffs (remember his 23-point fourth quarter in a Game 4 triple-OT win over Brooklyn?), last season with the Bulls as Rose's primary replacement at point guard. The Bulls would have loved to bring him back, but the salary cap prevented that. Robinson is playing through a sore wrist but should be ready. He's averaging just 6.9 points and shooting .342 from the field in 16.2 minutes per game behind Ty Lawson.
Bulls at Nuggets NBA Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BetOnline, Denver opened as a 3.5-point favorite with a total of 199.5. The Bulls are 4-5 ATS (1-3 on the road) and 3-6 “over/under” (2-2 on road). The Nuggets are 5-5 ATS (2-3 at home) and 7-3 O/U (4-1 at home). The Bulls are 3-7 ATS in their past 10 Thursday games. They are 1-4 ATS in their past five after an ATS loss. Denver is 3-7 ATS in its past 10 after a loss. The Nuggets are 2-8 ATS in their past 10 after allowing at least 100 points in their last game. Denver has failed to cover four straight Thursday games. The under is 4-1 in Denver's past five Thursday games. The over is 5-1-1 in Chicago's past seven against the West. Chicago is 1-5 ATS in the past six in Denver. The over is 8-3 in the past 11 there.
Free NBA Picks: Bulls at Nuggets Betting Predictions
This could come down to rebounding, with the Bulls No. 4 in the NBA in that category and Denver No. 3. That the Nuggets are without JaVale McGee (stress fracture in his left tibia), and that would seem to be a problem against a big team like the Bulls. Denver has been outrebounded in its back-to-back losses and is starting undersized J.J. Hickson at center in place of McGee, who is out indefinitely. Still, I like Denver, which has won three straight at home. Chicago is 1-3 on the road, with each loss by double digits. Presumably missing Butler makes things even tougher. Take the over.
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