Fresh off a week of postponed games due to a COVID-10 outbreak, a shortened Chicago Bulls roster welcomes the Los Angeles Lakers to United Center. LeBron James is probable. Anthony Davis is out, and the Bulls are coming off 2 straight losses.
Game: Lakers (16-14) at Bulls (17-10)
Location: United Center
Day/Time: Sunday, December 19, 8 p.m.0 ET
Bulls -5.5, 215
Los Angeles Lakers at Chicago Bulls
Lakers Hobble to Chicago
The new COVID variant has grossly affected NBA spreads in December, but the Chicago Bulls are favored Sunday in a game where they’ll be without 7 players. While that may seem absurd, it makes sense for one reason: the Los Angeles Lakers are without Anthony Davis for at least 4 weeks after he suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee against the Minnesota Timberwolves Friday night.
The variance of Davis’ reliability and motivation is nothing new; critics and pundits question Davis’ consistency on a regular basis and it’s clear why; an aging LeBron James and Russell Westbrook don’t feel like enough star-power to carry LAL’s offense anymore.
Davis averages 23 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game, and although LeBron can sometimes compensate for lost stars, the Lakers are depleted heading into this contest. According to multiple reports, the Lakers COVID-related inactives include Talen Horton-Tucker, Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley and Malik Monk. Lebron remains probable.
The situation for LAL is desperate. A team barely over .500 so far this season and one that’s predicated by big men, a report from CBS Sports suggests the Lakers could look to sign a center before the trade deadline on Feb. 10. The Lakers are old, injured, and their roster isn’t built to lose starting talent. Their double-digit loss against Minnesota on Friday revealed as much. Los Angeles was out-rebounded 61-36 and out-classed for the majority of the game, especially after AD left. Minnesota scored 48 points in the paint, compared to LAL’s measly 32. When considering NBA free picks Sunday, even a shallow Bulls roster could have plenty of success against the visiting, shaken-up Lakers.
Bulls with Enough Talent to Take on LAL
The COVID outbreak in the Windy City mostly affects the Chicago Bulls’ depth. The Bulls will be without Zach LaVine, a big loss, and 6 bench players. Bulls’ active players include DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, Nikola Vucevic, Alex Caruso, Javonte Green, and 4 others.
The Bulls are one of the best all-around units in basketball at this juncture. Chicago is 7th in net rating, 9th in points allowed per game (105.7), and one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the NBA (they shoot 36.8% on average, good for 4th overall).
The Bulls are also skilled at challenging their opponents’ shots, permitting just 43.8 points in the paint per contest (9th overall) and 50% of their opponent’s shots from inside the arc (3rd overall). That gives Chicago a significant advantage since the Los Angeles Lakers typically thrive in the painted area (10th overall with 46.9 ppg). The Bulls are also great against the spread, covering 63% (17-10). The Lakers are the worst ATS team in the association, covering only 11 of their 30 games so far.
With Anthony Davis Out, Bulls Have the Advantage
Although injuries and COVID protocols plague both units, the Chicago Bulls have a significant rest advantage. The Bulls played their last contest on December 11, 8 days ago in a loss to the Heat. The Los Angeles Lakers played Friday, on the road, and were obliterated by Minnesota.
The pace of play and the predominance of NBA unders hitting in sport bets (unders are still winning at a clip of 55.4% in non-overtime games, according to Covers.com) suggests NBA players weren’t as primed or as in-shape as viewers expected to start the season. A rejuvenated Bulls unit, though not at full capacity, should have more energy than the Lakers, who looked awfully sluggish in their last contest.
Betting online is especially difficult with the abundance of COVID health and safety protocols overwhelming the league. That makes picking a total difficult. At 215, the total feels about right. It suggests that this game could go either way– high scoring because of a lack of defensive talent or low-scoring because of a lack of offensive talent. The best way to approach the total is to not approach the total- save your money for something better.
The line on the Chicago Bulls opened around -4 or -4.5, depending on the sportsbook, but it’s moving in the direction of Chicago and I agree with the move. Taking a line at -5.5 is equivalent to just under two possessions ahead of the other team. Without Anthony Davis and with a tired roster that’s been largely inconsistent, picking the Lakers feels irresponsible. This is an ugly game, but the Bulls feel like the only side worth playing.