The Milwaukee Bucks were already going to be an underdog entering their game Friday night at Chicago. But after the events that unfolded Wednesday night, the question is not so much if the Bucks will be an underdog, but how big of an underdog will they be? The Bulls, with the best record in the Eastern Conference, will look to bounce back from a rare loss when their Central Division-rival Milwaukee Bucks come to town. This will be the first of four meetings between the teams this season. Here are my NBA picks for the game tonight.
Milwaukee Bucks (7-10) @ Chicago Bulls (16-4), 8 p.m. ET
The Bucks had struggled mightily on the road, losing their first eight dates, but they turned it around of late with a three-game road win streak (while losing the last two home games in the process) after a 105-99 win at Houston Wednesday night. The other two road wins have come at New York and at Miami. Just as it seemed the team was turning the corner once Andrew Bogut returned to the lineup, he turned his ankle Wednesday night and is listed as day-to-day (but may miss at least a week). The load will go right back onto Brandon Jennings (20.2 ppg, 5.5 apg), who has been very capable, and scorer Stephen Jackson (13 ppg, 3.1 apg). The team is middle-of-the-pack in the league in both scoring and points allowed per game.
For the first time this year the Bulls are coming off of a home loss. After an 8-0 start in front of friendly fans, Chicago was stunned by Indiana Wednesday night (95-90) to snap a four-game win streak and a 9-1 run overall. The Bulls can fall back on their defense and rebounding, though, as Chicago ranks No. 1 in the league in points allowed (86.3 ppg) and rebounding (45.2 rpg). The team is without starting 2-guard Luol Deng due to injury, but the Bulls still have reigning league MVP Derrick Rose (21.1 ppg, 8.3 apg) and power forward Carlos Boozer (15.0 ppg, 8.4 rpg) to lead the way.
In large part due to the Bogut injury, the NBA odds list Chicago as an 11-point favorite, while the total sits at 182 points. The Bucks have become much better on the road of late – but that has been with Bogut in the lineup. With him out, there is a decided lack of a post presence to give Boozer or Joakim Noah something to do defensively. Jennings vs. Rose will be an entertaining point-guard matchup, but Jennings might have to score 40 to give the Bucks a chance at the upset. With Chicago’s stifling defense, that isn’t likely to happen.
Final Score Prediction: Bulls 96, Bucks 84