CHICAGO BULLS (48-33)
at CHARLOTTE BOBCATS (42-39)
Tip-off: Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. ET
Line: Even, Total: 182
Two teams hoping to improve their playoff seeding will close out the regular season on Wednesday when the Bulls try to complete a season sweep of the host Bobcats.
Chicago has already clinched home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but a win on Wednesday plus a loss by Toronto (at New York) will give the club the No. 3 seed. Charlotte can finish as the conference's No. 6 seed with a win on Wednesday and a loss by Washington (at Boston). The Bulls have been on fire over the past three weeks, going 10-2 SU (8-4 ATS), which includes a 4-1 record (SU and ATS) on the road. After shooting horribly (39% FG) in a 100-89 loss in New York on Sunday, they bounced back the next night with a 51% FG clip in a 108-95 romp over Orlando. For the season, Chicago has a solid road record of 21-19 SU (20-19-1 ATS). The Bobcats are also playing outstanding basketball with a 7-1 SU mark (5-3 ATS) over their past eight contests, including erasing a 15-point, fourth-quarter deficit in Monday's 95-93 win in Atlanta. Charlotte's current four-game home win streak (3-1 ATS) has increased its record at Time Warner Cable Arena this season to 24-16 SU (23-15-2 ATS). However, the Bulls have dominated this series recently with a 10-1 SU mark (7-4 ATS) in the past 11 meetings, which includes five straight wins in Charlotte (SU and ATS) by an unbelievable average score of 98 to 76! But although Chicago is on the verge of a season sweep, the three meetings have all been close with margins of 5, 6 and 2 points when they last met on Jan. 25. In that 89-87 road win, the Bulls were able to knock down a few more threes (11-of-23) than the Bobcats (6-of-19). Both teams have positive betting trends for this matchup, as Charlotte is 13-1 ATS when facing a marginal winning team (51% to 60% win pct.) this season, but Chicago benefits from the fact that home teams where the line is +3 to -3 revenging a loss versus an opponent and coming off a road win by 3 points or less, are a pathetic 4-25 ATS (14%) over the past five seasons. While there are no significant injuries for either team, the Bulls could be without PG D.J. Augustin, who missed Monday's game to witness the birth of his child.
Which team will close out the regular season with a victory? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The experts are finishing the regular season strong at 53% ATS (61-55-5) in NBA Best Bets since March 9. StatFox Zach is a stellar 64% ATS (16-9-1) in NBA Best Bets since March 9, while StatFox Gary has remained hot with a 56% ATS mark (22-17-1) in Best Bets since Feb. 13. StatFox Dave has a profitable 55% ATS (52-42-3) NBA Best Bets record since Dec. 1, StatFox Brian is 53% ATS (30-27-2) in Best Bets since Jan. 25 and StatFox Scott is 53% ATS (8-7-1) in Best Bets since March 24.
Chicago continues to win games with its defense that allows a league-low 91.8 PPG on 43.1% FG (2nd in NBA) and 35.3% threes (10th in league). This club is also relentless on the glass with a +3.0 RPG margin (6th in NBA). This hard work on the defensive end of the court has helped mask a putrid offense that has the fewest points in the league (93.8 PPG) on an NBA-low 43.3% FG and 34.8% threes (7th-worst in league). The Bulls are really hoping PG D.J. Augustin (13.0 PPG, 4.4 APG) will be back for Wednesday's game because he has torched the Bobcats this season with 24.0 PPG (47% FG, 7-of-15 threes) and 7.5 APG in two meetings since arriving in Chicago. He's also scored at least a dozen points in all six games this month, averaging 19.8 PPG (44% threes) and 4.3 APG. C Joakim Noah (12.6 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 5.4 APG, 1.5 BPG, 1.2 SPG) has also been on fire over the past month, averaging 14.0 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 7.3 APG, 1.9 SPG and 1.6 BPG in his past 17 games. This includes 14 double-doubles and a triple-double on April 9 at Minnesota. Noah has also thrived in the three victories over Charlotte with 13.7 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 5.0 APG and 1.7 BPG. Another reason why the Bulls are on the verge of a season sweep is SF Mike Dunleavy (11.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG) who has 12.3 PPG (50% threes) and 6.3 RPG in the season series. He also has 13+ points in four straight contests where he's averaged 16.0 PPG on 55% FG (9-of-17 threes) and 93% FT (13-of-14). Another key to this game will be the play of SG Jimmy Butler (13.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.8 SPG) who has also performed at a high level during a four-game streak of 12+ points, averaging 14.0 PPG (48% FG), 3.5 RPG and 3.5 APG. He'll need to look for his offense more on Wednesday, as he is just 6-for-13 FG for 9.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 3.0 SPG in two games versus the Bobcats this season.
Charlotte's remarkable turnaround this season from 21 wins to 42 wins is due to many factors, but its strength lies in its commitment on the defensive end of the court. The Bobcats limit opponents to 97.2 PPG (4th in NBA) on 44.3% FG (7th in league) and are much stingier at home where they allow only 94.5 PPG on 43.2% FG. Charlotte is also the best ball-handling team in the NBA with a league-low 11.7 turnovers per game, and an NBA best 1.86 Ast/TO ratio. This ball protection has been vital to a team that doesn't have an explosive offense, averaging a mere 96.9 PPG (23rd in league) on 44.3% FG (25th in NBA) and 35.2% threes (23rd in league). The offense continues to revolve around C Al Jefferson (22.0 PPG, 10.8 RPG), who has posted eight straight double-doubles where he's averaged a hefty 25.6 PPG and 13.4 RPG. Jefferson has also been able to produce big numbers in his past seven meetings against this excellent Bulls defense with 26.0 PPG (56% FG) and 11.0 RPG, the first five that occurred when he was with Utah. PG Kemba Walker (17.6 PPG, 6.1 APG, 4.2 RPG, 1.2 SPG) has been bothered by a sore groin that forced him to miss two games, and he scored just five points (1-of-9 FG) in his return on Monday. But he says he's finally 100 percent, and is eager to build on his 18.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 4.0 APG in two games versus Chicago this season. SG Chris Douglas-Roberts (6.8 PPG) was the hero in Monday's victory with the game-winning shot, giving him 9.0 PPG over his past three contests. But in two meetings with the Bulls, he has scored just two points on 1-of-4 shooting in 19.9 MPG. SG Gerald Henderson (14.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG) is coming off a horrible shooting night in Atlanta (4 points on 1-of-9 FG), which was surprising considering his 13.3 PPG on 47% FG (6-of-9 threes) in his previous four contests. He should be able to bounce back though, against a Chicago team he has lit up this season for 19.0 PPG (47% FG, 3-for-3 threes, 14-of-15 FT), 5.7 RPG and 4.0 APG.