Cleveland v Chicago
It’s been a tough re-adjustment for the Chicago Bulls without Derrick Rose but they might get an extra boost on Saturday when they run into the slumping Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Bulls suffered the humiliation of a 29-point loss to the LA Clippers and a defeat to rock-bottom Utah in the wake of Rose’s season-ending injury before recovering to beat Detroit 99-79 on Wednesday. They got 13 points then from Kirk Hinrich, who’ll now fill the void at point guard, and they’ll need offensive contributions from him if they are to sustain a play-off push, even in the weak Eastern Conference.
But they also need more from their bench. Taj Gibson had 23 against the Pistons but Chicago’s reserves are contributing only 16.4 points per game. Take away Hinrich’s numbers from that, and there’s an argument that they’re the worst in the NBA.
That figures to force Tom Thibodeau to hope for someone with a hot hand or ride his starters, which could mean Chicago find it tougher going forward when they are on back-to-backs. With three days rest, they should have enough to see off Cleveland, whose own second unit is one of their (few) strengths. The Cavs have lost five straight and the Bulls, at -4 on the handicap, are still good enough to stampede by.
San Antonio v Houston
There’s a Texas two-step on Saturday when the Houston Rockets head to the San Antonio but the great unknowns surround the minutes of James Harden and Tony Parker.
Harden returned from a three-game absence on Friday but was limited to just nine points in 25 minutes as the Rockets thrashed Brooklyn. While Parker sat out completely due to a mild sprained ankle in the Spurs comfortable win over Orlando.
The Frenchman should return but with Houston on a roll, the Rockers are worth a look to keep this close. And expect the score to soar over the total points line if Harden edges back to his normal self.
Best bet: Take Chicago on the handicap of -4 over Cleveland at 1.91.