Chicago - Houston
It’s a clash of cultures on Thursday in the NBA when the free-scoring Houston Rockets pay a visit to the lean and mean Chicago Bulls.
And with both teams on red-hot form since the All Star break, it promises to be a statement game as they test out their own philosophies on a fellow high-flyer.
The duo are both coming off Tuesday losses, with Chicago going down to San Antonio and Houston to Oklahoma City, but that doesn’t detract from how impressive each has been of late.
The Bulls have had to turn to their defence to thrive with their tally of 92.3 points conceded per game, yet they’ve had a huge lift from the MVP-level play of Joakim Noah who has averaged 14.3 points and 11.1 rebounds in a stretch of 11 victories in 15 games.
That figures to make his clash with Dwight Howard a focal point with the Rockets rejuvenated centre notching 17.8 and 11.7 over his last ten, following a 23-point contribution in Houston’s 109-94 win over Chicago in September.
Where the Bulls have excelled is keeping even scoring powerhouses in check with Miami, Dallas, Golden State, Phoenix and Minnesota among the top-ten offensive sides whom they have held under 100 points since the start of 2014.
The Rockets are 4-13 when they fail to hit the century mark and with that target in mind, look under the total points line of 195.5 at 2.12. But despite the tenacity of Chicago, the form of their guests has been imposing and they have enough weapons to grind out a priceless victory.
Oklahoma City - LA Lakers
So it’s official: Kobe Bryant’s season is over. And having handed the veteran a gargantuan contract extension during his injury hiatus, it makes perfect sense to shut him down rather than hauling him back into the middle of the Los Angeles Lakers’ battle to not finish last in the Western Conference.
LA has battled on admirably in his absence but they are now being out-scored by an average of 102.0-107.8. And with a trip to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have notched 114.1 over their last eight despite indifferent form, look for value in going under 218.5 total points at 3.00.
Best bet: Back Houston on the handicap of -4.5 over Chicago at 2.20