|Time||8 p.m. ET|
|TV||NBA League Pass|
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The Chicago Bulls return home on Sunday after a five-game road trip to take on the New York Knicks for the second time this season.
The Bulls enter this matchup in third place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 11-5, while New York finds itself in seventh in the East with a record of 9-7.
Although the Knicks managed to grab a win in their first meeting with the Bulls earlier in the season, they have struggled as of late and are just 4-6 in the month of November. Will they be able to get back on track on the road, or will we see Chicago redeem itself and even the season series?
Can Knicks Offense Match Defensive Performance?
After finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference last season, the Knicks had high hopes that they would be able to continue to compete in the Eastern Conference and that last season was only the beginning of something big. They got off to a blazing hot 5-1 start to begin the season, but since then they have cooled off and have won just four of their last ten games.
A major reason for this drop-off has been their performance on the offensive end of the floor. In its first five games, New York was averaging 117 points per game and seemed to be getting anything it wanted against its opponents. However, since then the Knicks are averaging just 101.9 points per game, a number that has proven to be too low.
This is a squad that does rank 12th overall in Offensive Rating, scoring 108.8 points per 100 possessions, but scoring the ball has been an issue as of late and has allowed many of their opponents to keep the score close.
Luckily for New York, its play on the defensive end has not skipped a beat. The Knicks find themselves in the bottom half of the league in Defensive Rating, but at this point in the season they are allowing their opponents to shoot just 42.8% from the floor and are giving up just 41.1 points per game in the paint. They rank inside the top three in both of those metrics.
In addition, the Knicks have held their opponents to an average of 100.6 points per game over the course of their last five games. This is a sound team on defense, it’s just a matter of if the offensive production can get back to the level it was at a few weeks ago.
Retooled Bulls Are Legitimate Contender
The Chicago Bulls have risen from the ashes after finishing with a record below .500 for five straight seasons and now appear to be a legitimate contender.
The addition of Nikola Vucevic at the trade deadline last season was the first of many great moves by this organization. The Bulls would later go on to sign Demar DeRozan and Alex Caruso in free agency, and then they acquired Lonzo Ball in a sign-and-trade with New Orleans. All three of those guys have been a great fit alongside Zach Lavine, who once again is playing like an All-Star.
A lot of Chicago’s early success is because of its newly acquired stars. DeRozan is averaging 26.6 points per game while shooting 49% from the floor, and Ball comes into this one averaging just under 13 points per game. That production in addition to Lavine’s 26.8 points has catapulted Chicago into having the seventh best Offensive Rating this season.
Vucevic has missed the last few games because of health and safety protocols and comes into this matchup as questionable, but this would be the first game that he would be eligible to return to, and he has a shot to play on Sunday.
The Bulls have also been great on the defensive end of the floor, holding their opponents to a field goal percentage of 44.4% while having the eighth best Defensive Rating, allowing 104.1 points per 100 possessions. They are also surrendering just 106.4 points per game in their last five games, a huge reason why they were been able to beat some of the best teams in the Western Conference during their last road trip.
Given New York’s recent offensive struggles and the fact that this is the back end of a back-to-back for it, I think we see Chicago come out a jump on the Knicks early in this one.
The Knicks are just 2-6 against the spread after a win and 7-8 ATS for the season, while Chicago is 6-4 ATS after a win and 11-5 ATS overall this season. The Bulls have also covered the spread in their last two home games, so recent trends suggest to back Chicago in this one.
Five points is a friendly number for this game, and I like Chicago to get revenge on New York and even the season series. I would play it to seven.
Pick: Chicago -5 (-110)