The Chicago Bulls had been coping just fine without Derrick Rose. But there’s no doubt they’re a vastly more potent unit with the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player in their line-up.
After 11 games on the sidelines with a groin injury. Rose may make his return on Thursday night when the Boston Celtics pay a visit. And it would be a timely lift for a Bulls team which has lost consecutive regular season ties for the first time in over a year.
A defeat to Oklahoma City was no disgrace but Monday’s 99-93 reverse to Houston was almost baffling, after they coughed up a 13-point cushion in the third quarter. Much of that was down to turnovers and poor outside shooting, two areas that Rose would provide some major help on, as well as adding a major offensive punch.
Boston will feel confident despite the 87-86 loss to San Antonio on Wednesday that ended their winning streak at five. But even if Rose is still sitting out, Chicago can take heart that the Celtics are just 7-8 this season after 0 days rest. Expect the Bulls to defy their -7 handicap at 1.91.
Injuries have taken the Magic out of Orlando in recent days and they will attempt to avoid a five-game losing run when they host the New York Knicks on Thursday. That skid started at Madison Square Garden when they were pummelled 108-86, but even the absence of Dwight Howard cannot explain away Orlando’s defensive struggles of late.
The Knicks, led by Carmelo Anthony, have been able score 100 in three of their last four games while the Magic have conceded 100 in their last five. That should make for a high scoring match-up (over 188 points can be backed at 1.91), with New York able to edge victory.
Elsewhere, in the Euroleague, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Panathinaikos play a decisive fifth game in their quarter-final series in Athens. The Greek side escaped elimination to the team they beat in last year’s final with a 78-69 win in Tel Aviv last week. Pana are favoured to win this one by 8.5 but that’s a margin of defeat which Maccabi have tasted only twice all season - so take the odds on them.
Bet of the Day: New York to beat Orlando at 2.23