There may not be a gutsier performance in the current NBA Play-offs than the Chicago Bulls’ 93-86 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semi-final series on Monday night.
Multiple injuries? No problem. Facing the 1.55 favourites for the title? No worries. Doing it on the road? No bother.
That’s been one of the Bulls’ strengths all season. The ability to confound the odds and prove that, in the absence of Derrick Rose, they are a team which can thrive with their system as much as with their superstars. With no pressure, and little expectation on their shoulders once again, Chicago goes into Game 2 on Wednesday with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
They’re 9.40 to pull off another shock with Miami at -12 on the handicap. Little has changed with Luol Deng remaining in hospital, Kirk Hinrich still limping, Rose still a distraction and several others carrying knocks. But what will be different is that the Heat know that they need to bring their superlative best or risk another stumble.
"It ain't about Xs and Os in this series," said Heat star LeBron James. "It's about will and determination.” That was sorely lacking for the champions two days ago but it’s also unlikely they’ll have another night where they shoot under 30% from three-point range.
The league MVP is good value at 1.85 to score over 27 points and Chris Bosh also at 1.85 to go above 14.5 points.
Their side remains capable of pushing the total points above the line of 187, available at 1.91, and Miami are 1.06 for the win. But with Chicago fortified, the Bulls might just run their rivals close once again.
Western Conference favourites, the San Antonio Spurs, needed double overtime to see off the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of their series, after rallying from 16 points behind.
They now know the importance of limiting Stephen Curry if they want to take a 2-0 lead tonight. Curry had 44 points in the opener and he’s 1.85 to go over 25.5 second time around. But the Spurs are favoured by -7.5 on the handicap and with the smartest coach in the league, expect the hosts to find a way to cool the Warriors.
Best Bet: Chris Bosh to score over 14.5 points at 1.85
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