Chicago Bulls vs. New York Knicks Game Preview: Chicago Slight Favorites at MSG

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This is the third meeting between the teams this season. They’ve split the first two, with Chicago winning the last contest 109-103 on November 21st. Since then, the Bulls are 2-3, while New York is 2-2.

Billy Donovan’s squad (third in Eastern Conference) is coming off a 133-119 shootout victory over the Charlotte Hornets. Chicago’s top-ten defense has not been sound of late, allowing nearly four points more than their season average over its past five games. This includes a contest in which they allowed the rebuilding Houston Rockets to pour in 118. That said, even on nights where their defense doesn’t play up to par, Zach LaVine and company have proven they can score with anyone. Chicago sits eighth in offensive rating and 12th in points per game at 109.1.

The Knicks (10th in Eastern Conference) look to avoid a second straight loss after falling to the Brooklyn Nets 112-110 on Tuesday. Looking to jumpstart an offense that sits 18th in points per game (106.5), coach Tom Thibodeau has revamped his rotation, completely removing Kemba Walker and inserting Alec Burks into the starting lineup. Burks responded well against Brooklyn, notching 25 points with five rebounds and five assists.

However, an even bigger culprit for New York’s disappointing start has been its decline defensively. Thibs’ group ranks 20th in defensive rating and 16th in points allowed (106.4). This is a stark contrast to last season, when they ranked fourth and first in those respective categories.

Listed as -2.5 favorites, our model likes Chicago to come away with the road victory and cover with an expected margin of victory of 4.4. The Bulls are 7-4 on the road against the spread, while New York is just 4-7 against the number at home. Even if both defenses continue to struggle, Chicago has more than enough offensive firepower to withstand it. The same cannot be said of the Knicks.

As for the game’s relatively low total of 210.5, should both teams hit their respective scoring averages, the over should hit as our model recommends it will with a projected total of 218.1.

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