Every team has fewer than 10 regular season games left, so the NBA campaign is finally winding to a close. The Portland Trail Blazers are in a dogfight for playoff seeding. Portland enters Wednesday’s game in Chicago with a record of 46-27, which is tied with the Houston Rockets for the third-best record in the Western Conference.
Portland currently owns the tiebreaker over the Rockets, but they’re only 2 games north of the L.A. Clippers. The Utah Jazz are just 2.5 games behind Portland, the Oklahoma City Thunder are 3.5 back and the San Antonio Spurs are 4 games back. There is still a lot left to be decided in the Western Conference.
The Bulls, meanwhile, are waiting for the lottery. Chicago is just 21-54, which is the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference ahead of only the Cavs and Knicks. The Bulls also have a number of injury situations to monitor tonight. Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn are all listed as questionable to play tonight with various maladies.
The following odds are courtesy of our live odds feed:
|Betting Data||Trail Blazers||Bulls|
|2019 ATS Home||22-15-1||14-23-0|
|2019 ATS Away||18-17-0||20-16-2|
|2019 O/U Home||21-16-1||15-21-1|
|2019 O/U Away||17-18-0||19-18-1|
Portland picked up a hard-earned 148-144 win in double overtime against the Nets on Monday night, but it came at quite a cost. Franchise center Jusuf Nurkic went down with a brutal injury in the second overtime. He was eventually diagnosed with a pair of compound fractures in his left leg, and he underwent season-ending surgery yesterday.
Nurkic was in the midst of a career year for the Blazers, so his absence will be felt. Portland did well to sign another big man in Enes Kanter after Kanter was bought out by the Knicks earlier this season, but Kanter will struggle to replace Nurkic’s stellar defense in the paint.
Still, it could be worse. Kanter is a gifted offensive center, so the Blazers’ offense likely won’t miss a beat with him presumably starting in place of Nurkic. Portland can also give some extra minutes to second-year big man Zach Collins, who was the team’s first-round draft choice out of Gonzaga in 2017.
The Blazers will go as far as Damian Lillard can carry them. Portland is also without CJ McCollum right now, as McCollum went down with an injury of his own that will likely keep him sidelined until the playoffs. So, in the meantime, it’s basically all on Lillard to keep Portland afloat in the standings.
Interim head coach Jim Boylen would be offended at the suggestion that his team is tanking, but it is what it is. Both Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn were held out of last night’s game in Toronto, while Lauri Markkanen didn’t return after halftime due to “illness.”
Missing those 3 players meant Chicago had to rely heavily on the likes of Shaq Harrison, Ryan Arcidiacono, Wayne Selden and Cristiano Felicio. Selden wound up playing 40 minutes last night, and he may well be pressed into similar duty again tonight if LaVine is out once again.
The Bulls will use these last few games to get an extended look at some of their younger players. They have no real reason to risk long-term injury with more established guys like LaVine or Markkanen, so I would be a bit surprised if either player wound up suiting up for Chicago tonight. Ditto for Dunn, who has been dealing with a nagging back injury for the last few weeks.
Despite the fact that the Blazers are down 2 of their 3 leading scorers in McCollum and Nurkic, I have a hard time seeing them really being competitive in this game. Especially if those premier players I mentioned above wind up sitting out. Chicago has been one of the worst teams in the league all season, while Portland is desperately battling for playoff seeding.
Even with Lillard operating next to a bunch of complementary pieces, I think the Blazers still have enough firepower to get past a Chicago team playing the second night of a back-to-back. The Blazers are pretty heavy favorites on the moneyline here, but I like them to cover the 7.5-point spread, as well.
Taking Portland to cover the spread at -110 is obviously quite a bit more favorable from a profitability standpoint than betting on the Trail Blazers to win outright at -315. You aren’t making much money on that bet, so I’m all for backing Portland against the spread in the Windy City on Wednesday night.
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