Philadelphia 76ers (22-33) at Chicago Bulls (32-25)
Thursday, Feb. 28
United Center, Chicago
8 p.m. EST (TNT)
Spread – Bulls -7
Total – 179
Pressure is starting to build in Chicago, where the Bulls’ recent downturn has only intensified the concern about when/if Derrick Rose will return to the lineup. Fans are starting to wonder if that ACL/MCL tear will cost the teams two shots at a title (2012 and 2013). And if he even comes back now, will he be able to get into good-enough game shape to give Chicago a chance to make a deep playoff run?
The team has said that when Rose returns will be up to one person – Derrick Rose. Which conveniently takes all the heat off the team’s medical staff and coaching staff, and puts the onus squarely on a kid who seems obviously conflicted about the whole thing.
Rose is playing 5-on-5 right now, and one (unnamed) teammate has been quoted as saying to the effect that while the point guard’s knee looks fine, the former MVP just doesn’t seem mentally ready to jump back into the NBA pool and all that returning to the lineup entails.
It hasn’t helped that the month of February has been less than kind to the surviving Bulls. A difficult 10-game stretch has left the team with lots of black and blues. There have been losses to tough teams (San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Indiana, Denver and Miami) and an average team (Boston).
But none of the defeats was as bad as the most recent one – a 101-98 decision to the Cavaliers. At home. And with the Cavs missing PG Kyrie Irving. It was a game the Bulls needed badly to get things back on track. But they spit the bit, and now they head into the last game of the month on a 3-10 skid that has dropped them to the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference.
With upcoming games at Indiana and San Antonio (who are combined 46-8 at home) followed by a West Coast road trip, the Bulls need tonight’s game badly.
While the return of the mercurial Rose has Bulls fans scratching their heads, the 76ers got some rare good news recently when Andrew Bynum started scrimmaging. Philly dumped Andre Iguodala to get Bynum, but the big guy hasn’t played a minute for the Sixers in a season-long rehab of his ailing knee. But even with Bynum practicing, note that he is a free agent on July 1 and is loath to risk an injury that could cost him a big contract.
THE PICK – The O/U (179) is ridiculously low because neither team has been able to generate any kind of consistent offense of late.
Chicago failed to even break 70 in two of its losses in the recent skid, and the 76ers haven’t broken 90 only once and are in the midst of a 6-game losing streak. With the game likely being a taffy pull, the Bulls will be hard-pressed to cover 7.
Philadelphia +7 in this one.