Chicago at New York
Time: 8 PM ET; TV: ESPN
Spread: CHI -4.5
Betting odds courtesy of Bovada
Chicago and New York both fought over a certain free agent over the summer. And that man, Carmelo Anthony, chose to stay with Knicks GM Phil Jackson and re-sign in the Big Apple. That, in turn, gave the Bulls the gumption to sign free agent forward Pau Gasol.
Gasol may even be a better fit, since he and Joakim Noah can function well as a passing 4/5 duo. NBA oddsmakers seem to like it too, favoring the visiting Bulls by 4.5 points in Wednesday nights action.
Aside from the show of proving Melo to have made a mistake, equally as many eyes will be charting the return of Derrick Rose. The Bulls posted the best record in the East in back to back seasons before No. 1 tore his ACL in the playoffs. Rose exhibited a few flashes during the FIBA championships, but he never seemed to gel within the flow of the team.
Exhibition season revealed a much more assertive Rose, and the Bulls will need him to be. As the youngest player ever to win the MVP award, Rose still should have plenty in the tank if he’s recovered.
The Knicks also lost the only good defender in the starting lineup, Tyson Chandler. Perhaps due to the fact the Knicks were so bad defensively, it only made sense to become the league’s worst defensive team by a long margin.
Coach Derek Fisher will seek to reverse that trend. Instead of Chandler at the 5, the Knicks will turn to veteran Samuel Dalembert. Dalembert is a good shock blocker, but does little offensively save finish at the rim.
Jackson said the triangle will help forward Andrea Bargnani, and Amar’e Stoudemire may find it beneficial as well. With Jose Calderon running the show, the Knicks could become a decent defensive team.
The Knicks actually have strong depth at three positions, with Tim Hardaway Jr., rookie Cleanthony Early, J.R. Smith, Pablo Prigioni and Shane Larkin all coming off the bench. The Bulls, though, have an even deeper bench, featuring Taj Gibson, rookie Nikola Mirotic, and fellow rookie Doug McDermott. Bench play will be crucial in this game, and if the Knicks strong second unit can help erase the leads Chicago’s starters build, the Knicks could not only cover the 4.5 spread, but also win out-right. Bettors are wise to consider a money line bet on the home team Knicks.