By: Jay Patel
Spread: Brooklyn Nets (-5.5)
Tip-Off: 6:30 P.M. CT, Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
The impacts of this game are huge for the ninth-seeded Bulls. Currently, Brooklyn owns the eighth seed, three games ahead of the Bulls. These two teams meet four times this year. Game one went to the bad guys as the Nets won by six at the United Center on Nov. 16. This is game two, and for Chicago, this is a must-win.
Robbed. Snubbed. Overlooked. Whichever word you want to use, Zach LaVine was stripped of a deserving All-Star status. I don’t know what happened, but LaVine is better than about half of the reserves. Zach will always be an All-Star in Chicago.
The Bulls are coming off a tough OT loss at Indiana. Victor Oladipo sparked a Pacers rally, and the Bulls were overcome in the extra frame. The Bulls got solid performances all around, especially from Chandler Hutchison. Hutchison led the team with 21 points. When healthy, he has a chance to bring scoring, rebounding, and athleticism. The future is bright for Hutch. Cristiano Felicio is actually playing well also. He was two rebounds shy of a double-double, but was solid again with 11 points and eight rebounds. There have been times when Felicio has been able to play well over a stretch of time. Let’s hope it continues. Chicago kept pace with a solid team in the Pacers, and it’s a sign of growth of how they’ve been playing lately.
There will be a key difference on the Nets this time around. Kyrie Irving. He missed a huge chunk of the season due to some shoulder issues, but Irving is back, and playing like his usual self. In 18 starts, Irving is averaging 26.8 PPG, 6.6 AST, and 5.2 REB. Joining Irving is another underrated star in Spencer Dinwiddie. The ex-Bull filled in magnificently for Irving, averaging 21.4 PPG and 6.5 AST. The Nets have a nice collection of young, underrated talent. Caris LeVert (14.2 PPG) is an athletic guard who recently made his season debut. C Jarret Allen is a rebounding and blocking machine, grabbing 9.7 REB a game as well as blocking 1.5 shots a game. When KD returns, combined with Irving and the other younger players on the team, the Nets will be cooking in Brooklyn.
Analysis and Prediction
This game is going to special for LaVine. I’m predicting a huge game from the snubbed star. Add in the recent performances of the role players, and the Bulls are starting to play with passion. They gave the Pacers a run, and I expect the same tonight in Brooklyn. I’m shaking my head at the spread. Zach LaVine will bring everything he’s got tonight, leading the Bulls in a must-win game shortly after getting robbed of an All-Star appearance. Bulls +5.5. It won’t be a mistake.