After knocking off the top two teams in the NBA in consecutive games, the Chicago Bulls fell back to earth a bit with a frustrating overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday. Following a couple of days off, the Bulls will look to bounce back, potentially against a familiar face, former Bull, Lauri Markkanen.
Markkanen has put the entire NBA on notice this season, leading what was supposed to be a no-doubt tanking team in Utah in points at 21.7 per game along with 8.4 rebounds per game, and has helped bring Utah early season success, starting 12-6 before their recent losing streak.
At the time of writing, Markkanen is listed as a game-time decision with a knee issue. Mike Conley has been absent from the lineup for Utah, and will remain out for tonight’s game. The injury report for the Chicago Bulls is short, but lists Alex Caruso as questionable with a sprained ankle.
Last Friday’s game was a tough one for the Chicago Bulls as well as the best bet of the day, as Nikola Vucevic failed to hit over 16.5 after scoring 11 in the first half. Despite the effort, I may be going back to the well tonight, as the big man has an even more glaring matchup mismatch than that Friday night game.
The Bulls currently stand as underdogs in Utah tonight, but against a struggling defense, they can come out with a more consistent offensive effort and find a way to win. Best of luck tonight, let’s see some red, and GO BULLS!!
2022 Bulls Best Bet Record: 9-10 (1L Streak)
Nikola Vucevic Over 16.5 Points (Sportsbook Odds May Vary)
I know what you are probably thinking, and I completely understand. After Friday night’s performance, why would you go back to the scene of the crime? In many cases with gambling, you cannot be afraid to play a similar play a second time even if it burned you the first, provided you believe that it was and still is the right pick.
Despite the tough loss on the bet, I still stand by the reasoning and the mismatch. The Chicago Bulls just flat out did not exploit a clear advantage. Up against the 27th ranked team in points per paint allowed, with clear matchup advantages, Vooch recorded 5-7 from the field from two-point range, but 1-7 from three-point range.
It was absolutely mind boggling that the Bulls did not put emphasis on feeding Vucevic inside, instead relying on Demar Derozan and Zach LaVine to bust out of shooting slumps, taking one-on-one contested jumpers with regularity. Having that talent and ability in your back pocket is incredibly beneficial, but when you have such a strong matchup advantage you have to take advantage of it.
Games like these against teams without a paint presence are the exact games in which you have to get your moneys worth with Vucevic. Of course he can knock down long range shots, but when you have teams that are inept at slowing down teams with true big men, you should have no choice but to attempt to exploit it. The Chicago Bulls did not do it in the second half on Friday, and felt the consequences.
In tonight’s case, the matchup and story is almost identical to Friday night’s, if not even more glaring. On Friday night, OKC came in ranking 27th in points per game, and tonight, the Bulls will face a Utah team that is dead last in points per paint allowed. If they cannot or will not choose to exploit this matchup, I and Bulls nation will have every right to question the coaching of this team. The Jazz just flat out do not have the horses to slow down Vucevic in the paint.
Throughout Utah’s four game losing streak, even if you just look at box scores you can see the lack of ability to slow down big men at the rim. Most recently, Deandre Ayton put up 29 points and 21 rebounds on 11-19 shooting, all from two-point range. The other cases are a bit different with the make ups of these teams, but the Warriors’ Kevon Looney who averages less than seven points per game scored 10 points on 5-8 shooting, Marvin Bagley of Detroit finished 9-10 from the field, Ivica Zubac of the Clippers’ 6-8 from the field.
If the Bulls run their offense through Vucevic tonight as they should, not only will he score at will, but the Chicago Bulls will most likely leave Utah with a much needed victory. If they don’t take advantage and fall again, this team will have some explaining to do. Give me another swing at the big man to hit over 16.5 and to be the reason the Bulls win this game.
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