CHICAGO BULLS (6-3)
at DENVER NUGGETS (4-6)
Tip-off: Thursday, 10:35 p.m. ET
Line: Chicago -1, Total: 197
The Bulls and their shutdown defense head west on Thursday to visit the slumping Nuggets, who are attempting to end a two-game losing skid.
Chicago has come as advertised this season, a grind-it-out team that will clamp down on opposing offenses to earn its wins. The Bulls started the year off in disappointing fashion, going 1-3 SU (0-4 ATS), but have since won five straight SU (4-1 ATS) including a 110-94 win against the Pacers, who were undefeated at the time. The Nuggets seemed to have found their groove when they won three straight games to get back to .500 on the season, but have since lost their last two. However, both of those defeats came on the road and against two of the best teams in the NBA (Houston and Oklahoma City). Denver won both meetings with Chicago last season SU, but was facing a Bulls team without star PG Derrick Rose. The points for those games both went well over the total making the Over 60% (9-6) in this series in Denver since 1996. In this same timeframe, the Nuggets are an impressive 19-12 SU (16-15 ATS) overall, including 12-3 SU at home, but Chicago has gone 8-7 ATS in these Pepsi Center visits. Since Tom Thibodeau has taken over as the Bulls head coach, they are 42-24 ATS (64%) when the line is +3 to -3, but the Nuggets are 11-1 ATS (92%) over the last two seasons at home against great teams that have outscored their opponents by 3+ PPG on the season. SG Jimmy Butler (toe) is expected to miss the game for the Bulls while C JaVale McGee (tibia) and SF Danilo Gallinari (knee) continue to be out for Denver. Nuggets backup PG Nate Robinson (wrist) is listed as questionable.
Can the Bulls extend their win streak in a tough venue? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. StatFox Forecaster has been spot-on so far this season with a 57% ATS record (30-23-1) in featured games, while the five experts are a sizzling 69% ATS (24-11-1) on Best Bets since Nov. 12. During this timeframe, StatFox Gary is 6-1 ATS, StatFox Brian is 6-2 ATS, StatFox Dave is 4-2 ATS and StatFox Zach is 5-3 ATS. Both Brian and Dave are 56% ATS on NBA Best Bets for the season.
The Bulls have scored only 94.0 PPG, ranking them 24th in the league offensively, but they have held opponents to 89.0 PPG and 39.8% shooting from the field, which both rank 2nd in the NBA. They were excited to have PG Derrick Rose (15.0 PPG, 4.5 APG) back this season after missing the entire 2012-13 campaign with a torn ACL, but he has been a shell of his former self so far. He is shooting only 34.4% from the field (well below his career 46.1% FG) and has scored 20 points only once this season. Rose has played below his career averages over five career games against the Nuggets with 18.6 PPG and 5.2 APG, but has not faced them in over three years. SF Luol Deng (16.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG) took over as the leader of this team when Rose was down and has made a name for himself as a shutdown defender with the ability to score in many different ways. Deng has averaged 18.8 PPG on 52% FG during his team's five-game winning streak, but struggled against Denver last season, going 13-for-36 (36.1% FG) and averaging only 5.0 RPG with his 16.0 PPG. At age 32, PF Carlos Boozer (16.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG) is playing some of his best basketball since joining the Bulls in 2010 and most recently scored 12 points with a season-high 17 rebounds on Monday against the Bobcats. Boozer has averaged a double-double (16.3 PPG, 10.4 RPG) in 27 career games (26 starts) against the Nuggets. Although C Joakim Noah (8.8 PPG, 8.9 RPG) has not reached double-digit rebounds in any of the past seven games, he has averaged 10.9 RPG in 11 career games (10 starts) against Denver.
The Nuggets have always been known for their high-paced offense and affinity for scoring in bunches, and with 104.4 PPG (6th in NBA), this season is no different. They have faced some extremely tough opponents over their past two games (Houston and Oklahoma City) and still managed to average 112.0 PPG, but walked away with two losses. On defense, they allow the third-most points in the league (105.6 PPG), and have already surrendered more than 110 points if half of their games. PG Ty Lawson (22.0 PPG, 8.6 APG) has been this team's only real source of consistent offense, but it seems that the more he scores, the more they lose, as Denver is 1-6 SU when he nets 20+ points and 3-0 SU when he scores less than 20. In his two games against Chicago last season, Lawson managed 14.5 PPG and 7.5 APG, but shot just 40% FG against the stingy Bulls defense. SF Wilson Chandler (13.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.5 SPG) has been a nice source of outside shooting with 44% threes in his four games since returning from injury. He has done well in 13 career games (9 starts) when facing Chicago with 15.8 PPG (50% FG, 46% threes) and 5.2 RPG. PF Kenneth Faried (10.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG) is good for a highlight reel play per game but has averaged only 6.5 PPG on 40% FG in the past two games. PF J.J. Hickson (9.2 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 1.2 BPG) had a monster game (18 points, 19 rebounds) on Monday night against Oklahoma City, and is averaging 14.7 PPG (51.4% FG) with 12.7 RPG over his past three contests.