NBA Odds, Preview, Prediction for Grizzlies vs. Bulls: Expect an Exciting Showdown in Chicago (Saturday, Feb. 26)
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Ja Morant.
- The Grizzlies travel to Chicago to face the Bulls on Saturday night as short road underdogs.
- The Grizzlies have consistently started fast, but DeMar DeRozan and the Bulls have closed games out incredibly well too.
- Brandon Anderson breaks down the matchup and shares his best bets below.
Grizzlies vs. Bulls Odds
|Time||8 p.m. ET|
|TV||NBA League Pass|
We’ve got a good one Saturday night as the Bulls host the Grizzlies in a matchup between two of the league’s most surprising teams. Who would’ve guessed that these teams would be a combined 80-41 on the cusp of March, sporting the third and fourth best records in the entire NBA?
When the season began, neither Chicago nor Memphis was a surefire playoff lock. Now it would be a disappointment for either squad not to win at least one postseason series, and it wouldn’t be that outlandish to dream of a run for either team all the way to the NBA Finals.
Both teams are short a key starter. Dillon Brooks is still out for the Grizz, while Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso are still sidelined for the Bulls. The good news, though, is that Ja Morant is not even on the injury report after a hip injury in his first game after the All-Star Break. Hopefully that means Ja is good to go.
These teams are very good and very hot. The Grizzlies won nine of 11 into the break, and the Bulls have won six in a row with DeMar DeRozan pushing himself all the way onto the fringe of the MVP race with his incredible scoring and late-game heroics.
So will DeMar and the Bulls come through again late, or will the Grizzlies set the tone early and never look back?
Morant Leads an Exciting Grizzlies Team
The Grizzlies might be the most entertaining show in the league, thanks largely to Morant’s nightly theatrics. Morant is the heavy favorite to win Most Improved Player after a breakout campaign, and he’s a likely All-NBA selection and a possible MVP candidate himself.
The Bulls could have their hands full against Morant with both Ball and Caruso, their top two perimeter defenders, sidelined. Rookie Ayo Dosunmu defended Trae Young wonderfully on Thursday night, but Morant’s athleticism and attacking prowess make him an entirely different animal. Chicago has not protected the rim well, and its defense has fallen off as the season has gone along, so Morant should have a big game if healthy.
If you’re not much of a fan of the 3-pointer crazy these days, this is the game for you. The Grizzlies rank second in 2-point attempts but near the bottom of the league in 3s, and the Bulls rank dead last in 3-point attempts themselves.
This game, for once, will be played inside the arc, and that’s where Memphis should have a serious edge, defensively. While Chicago’s defense has fallen off as the season has progressed, the Grizzlies’ defense has gotten better and better. Even without Brooks for so long now, Memphis ranks fifth in the NBA in Defensive Rating, buoyed by a long-awaited breakout defensive season from Jaren Jackson Jr.
The Grizzlies also win the possession battle. They don’t always score the most efficiently, but they lead the entire NBA in rebounds, offensive rebounds, steals, and blocks. That means fewer chances for the opponent and more bites at the apple when the Grizz do have the ball. The Grizzlies almost always win the turnover battle and, though they don’t win the modern 3>2 game, they win the math anyway simply by getting more chances.
An outstanding bench also doesn’t hurt, and that should be another advantage against a shorthanded Bulls team. Brandon Clarke, De’Anthony Melton, John Konchar, and a crew of others do not slow down when the starters go out. Memphis comes at you all 48 minutes, and it’s really a joy to watch.
Fans at the United Center are in for a treat. But will they get the W too?
DeRozan Leads a Potent Bulls Offense
Even with so many missed games from the Bulls — don’t forget Zach LaVine missed a good while, and Patrick Williams still has barely played all season — Chicago’s offense has been better than anyone could have ever imagined.
The Bulls are shooting the lights out. Despite taking the fewest 3s in the league, Chicago ranks second in 3-point percentage. The Bulls lead the league in free-throw percentage, and they’re an outstanding 2-point team too. Chicago is top-five in Free Throw Rate and top-five in Effective Field Goal percentage. This offense has been an absolute machine.
And right now, the machine is absolutely purring thanks to the play of DeRozan. He hit yet another late shot in the win Thursday night over the Hawks, and that’s now nine straight games with over 30 points on at least 50% from the field, a remarkable hot streak.
He’s averaging 37.6 PPG during that stretch on 60% shooting, and he’s scored 28-plus in 16 of his last 17. You better believe this is a game Memphis would love to have Dillon Brooks around to throw at DeRozan.
The Bulls rank third in Offensive Rating, and they’re built well to stop Memphis from winning the possession battle by much. Chicago ranks third in Defensive Rebounding Rate and top-10 in lowest Turnover Rate, though that’s a spot where missing both starting guards could be an issue against all that Memphis pressure.
The weakest unit on the court will be Chicago’s defense, which has fallen all the way to the fringe of the bottom 10 in the league. The Bulls miss those guards setting the tone on the perimeter, and Nik Vucevic can only do so much at the rim. Chicago is tied at the top of the Eastern Conference standings, but the Bulls are overperforming a bit. Basketball Reference has them at 34-26 Expected Win-Loss record, rather than the 39-21 they actually are.
They can thank DeRozan’s heroics for much of that gap. Chicago has been remarkable late in games, especially recently, when the master of the midrange takes over. But the Bulls need to keep it close enough to give DeRozan a chance to finish the job.
We should get plenty of scoring here. Both teams are missing key defenders, and both offenses rate among the top five in the league. That would typically make the over a nice play, but at 235.5 already, the books have set a pretty high line.
Instead, I’ll focus more on the recent results, where two things have stood out: the Grizzlies have been especially good early, and the Bulls have been fantastic late.
The Grizzlies lead the league in Net Rating offensively over their last 10 games, and they’re mashing in the first quarter in particular. Memphis ranks first with a +7.87 Net Rating in the first quarter while Chicago ranks 21st at -1.52.
But late in the game, that flips. In the fourth quarter over the past 10 games, it’s the Bulls who lead the league in Net Rating offensively, and they’re first in fourth quarter Net Rating at +5.11, while the Grizzlies defense ranks second to last.
The Grizzlies are the healthier and slightly better team with the better defense, and I’ll bet on them to come out ready for the fight in the first quarter. But in a game this tight, especially the way DeRozan and the Bulls have been closing, I don’t want to have to trust the Grizzlies to close out with the road W.
I’ll play the Grizzlies first quarter moneyline at -110 and look for that early margin. But if Chicago hangs around, I might also look to live bet an underdog Bulls team late and give them a chance to close things out in the fourth quarter. Maybe we can grab this one at both ends.
Pick: Grizzlies first quarter ML -110, and look to live bet Bulls as fourth quarter dogs
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