NBA Handicapping: Chicago Bulls At Minnesota Timberwolves

Chicago Bulls AT Minnesota Timberwolves
Mar 30, 2011 at 8 PM EST
Opening line:  Chicago -9
Current Line:  Chicago -9.5
Opening Total:  198.5
Current Total:  197
Opening Moneyline:  Chi -500 / Min +400
Current Moneyline:  Chi -550 / Min +445

Derrick Rose's drive and talent has propelled Chicago to the top of the Eastern Conference

The Bulls are heavy favorites in this game, as you might expect from a team that has won 12 of their past 13 and the Bulls sit atop the Eastern Conference, a place few expected them to be in light of Miami’s off seasons move and Boston’s perennial greatness.  The Bulls didn’t look like that team in their last game against Philadelphia, especially in the first quarter when they ended up finding themselves down 14 points as the horn sounded.

“We came out sluggish. This one is definitely on me,” Rose said. “Just me taking care of the ball and missing shots that I normally hit. … Just careless, some of them was me driving and kicking the ball off my foot.”

The key to resuming their winning ways, other than having Derrick Rose continue to dominate, is going to be their defense.  They hold opponents to 92.1 points per game, 2nd lowest in the league.  However, over the last 2 games they have given up 101 points on average and coach Tom Thibodeau is not pleased at all.

“The last couple of games, the first half we haven’t played defense,” Thibodeau said. “We have to take a look at how we approach the game, how we practice and make the corrections real fast. Things can change fast in this league.”

Minnesota has been playing without Kevin Love, but Michael Beasley has stepped up in his absense.  They still aren’t winning, but they have been keeping it close against quality opponents.

“I feel like we showed a lot of character,” Beasley said after scoring 28.  “We could’ve just let them beat us by 60 points. But we fought back and gave ourselves a chance to win the last two minutes. Of course we wanted to win, but it didn’t turn out that way. A lot of guys played well, and we learned a lot from this game.”

Some betting trends:

Chicago is 12-2 SU over their last 14 games and the total has gone OVER in 5 of their last 6 games.  The total has also gone OVER in 4 of their last 5 on the road and they are 6-1 SU in their last 7 road games.  The Bulls are 7-16 SU in their last 23 against the Wolves and the total has gone UNDER in 5 of their last 7 against Minnesota, as well.  The total has gone OVER in 11 of the last 15 against Minnesota on the road and Chicago is 2-10 SU in their last 12 road games against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Minnesota is 0-5 SU in their last 5 games and the total has gone OVER in 4 of their last 6 games.  The total has UNDER in 11 of their last 15 at home and they are 3-11 SU in their last 14 at home.  Minnesota is 1-4 ATS in their last 5 against the Chicago Bulls and the total has gone UNDER in 5 of the last 7 meetings with the Bulls.  Minnesota is 16-7 SU in their last 23 against Chicago and the total has gone OVER in 11 of the last 15 games at home against the Bulls.  Minnesota is 10-2 SU in their last 12 home games against the Bulls.

Key Matchups:

Luol Deng vs. Michael Beasley

Both players are crucial to their team’s success, but with star forward Kevin Love out, Beasley is more heavily needed by the Wolves, both scoring and on the boards.  Over his last 3 games he is averaging 20 points per game and 8 rebounds per game, a full point better an 2.4 rebounds better than his season average.  Deng has the length to frustrate Beasley, but Beasley’s versatility should serve him well.  If he can post Deng up and use his superior strength to get good position on the block, Deng could be in for a long night.  After a strong 7 games in a row, Deng has fallen off in the last two, scoring just 16 pionts and grabbing 14 rebounds in a loss to Philly and a victory against Milwaukee.  The Bulls are going to need more from him in the playoffs, but can probably manage to suffer through his struggles right now, especially against the lowly Timberwolves.

Joakim Noah vs. Darko Milicic

Milicic had a strong stretch of games earlier ni the season and over the last two games he appears to have found that form again.  The last two games Milicic has averaged 15.5 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game, both above his season average, especially the scoring as he is averaging only 9 a game on the year.  Noah will probably focus more on help side defense than one on one coverage with Milicic, so Milicic may be able to get some easy garbage baskets.  Truly, both these players’ contributions are most seen at the defensive end, and Darko has blocked 2 or more shots in 3 of his last 4 games.  Noah has had back to back double doubles and has averaged 11 points per game, 12 rebounds per game, and 2 blocks per game over his last 2 games.

Given the relative importance of this game with regard to the Bulls maintaining their number one seed in the Eastern Conference, you can expect Thibodeau’s crew to come out focused and ready to dispose of the Timberwolves, especially in light of the fact that they are coming off an embarassing double digit loss to the Sixers.

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