Knicks vs. Bulls NBA Odds & Picks: Back Tom Thibodeau Against His Former Team

Knicks vs. Bulls NBA Odds & Picks: Back Tom Thibodeau Against His Former Team article feature image
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Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Tom Thibodeau.

  • Tom Thibodeau faces off against one of his former teams on Monday night, as the Bulls look to bounce back from a last-second loss.
  • Thibodeau has the Knicks rating as one of the NBA's best defensive teams, while Chicago is having trouble stopping anyone this season.
  • Raheem Palmer explains why he's backing New York's stellar defense as a road underdog in the Windy City.

Knicks vs. Bulls Odds

Knicks Odds +4
Bulls Odds -4 
Moneyline +138 / -165
Over/Under 218.5
Time 8 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds as of Sunday night and via DraftKings.

The 7-11 Chicago Bulls suffered perhaps the most disappointing loss of the season Saturday night.

After battling back from a 19-point second-half deficit, the Bulls had a five-point lead with 11 seconds to go when Damian Lillard hit a 3-pointer to get the lead down to two. Zach LaVine was tied up after the inbounds and the subsequent jump ball led to the Blazers getting the ball for another Lillard 3-ball at the buzzer for a 123-122 Blazers victory.

If there’s a positive when it comes to the NBA season, it’s that there is always another game on the horizon and the Bulls hope to rebound as they host the 9-12 New York Knicks on Monday night. New York is coming off a 14-point loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers.

This isn’t your standard Eastern Conference matchup as there’s some history between these teams with current Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau coaching the Bulls from 2010-15, leading them to their best period of success since the Michael Jordan era in Chicago.

Nonetheless, oddsmakers have installed the hometown Bulls as 4-point favorites with a total of 218.5. With the Bulls coming into this game with a three-game losing streak and the Knicks losing four of their last five, which one of these teams can start to right the ship?

Let’s find out!

New York Knicks

After being one of the NBA’s bottom feeders for the past seven seasons, the Knicks are much improved this season under Thibodeau. While this isn’t a playoff team, this team is no longer a pushover even against elite teams and there’s a lot to be excited about with Julius Randle, R.J. Barrett and rookie phenom Immanuel Quickley.

Quickley scored 25 points with three assists and three rebounds in Sunday’s loss to the Clippers, even hitting a flurry of baskets to bring the Knicks within two points with 7:44 left in the fourth quarter. Although it wasn’t enough against a Clippers team that had both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George back and is one of the best teams in the league, it’s certainly encouraging going forward.

Should the Knicks get consistent play from Quickley, it would go a long way towards helping this offense.

Randle leads the team in scoring at 22.2 points per game while also adding 11.1 rebounds and six assists. In his second season, Barrett is averaging 17.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. However, the former Duke standout is shooting just 28.8% from behind the arc on four attempts a game.

The Knicks have wins over the Bucks, Jazz, Celtics, Pacers and Hawks, all of whom appear to be playoff teams in the Eastern Conference. It’s clear that New York can compete with anyone on any given night.

Like most Thibodeau-coached teams, the Knicks hang their hat on defense, entering play on Sunday ranked seventh in Defensive Rating (108.8) after ranking just 23rd last season.

The Knicks are holding opposing teams to the lowest eFG% in the league at just 50.1%, and they’re third at defending the rim (58.5%) and first at defending the 3-point line (32.2%), which of course are the two areas teams want to shoot from based on the “Moreyball” philosophy.

The Knicks are just 14th in turnovers percentage this season and holding opposing teams to just 1.6 transition points per 100 possessions (third in the NBA), but this is a team that can compete every night.

That is despite ranking just 25th in Offensive Rating (107.0). Of course, the lack of firepower has hurt the Knicks this season, ranking just 27th in eFG% (50.4%) and in the bottom 10 in shooting in every area of the floor.

But against a Bulls defense that struggles to defend, the Knicks may still get theirs offensively.

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Chicago Bulls

The Bulls might be the polar opposite of the Knicks. While New York is a tough and physical team that makes its living on the defense, Chicago is just 26th in Defensive Rating, giving up 115.5 points per 100 possessions in their non-garbage time minutes, according to Cleaning The Glass.

The Bulls are giving up the third highest eFG% (56.2%) among NBA teams this season and are giving up a whopping 64.6% shooting at the rim, an area in which the Knicks are shooting 37.8% of their attempts.

What the Bulls can do, however, is score.

While it’s not reflected in their points per possession as they’re just 16th in Offensive Rating scoring 111.5 points per 100 possessions, the Bulls are shooting the fifth highest eFG (56.1%) this season behind the Nets, Clippers, Bucks and Jazz, all of whom are among the best offenses in the league.

LaVine leads the team with 26.9 points per game, but the Bulls have five other players in double figures — Lauri Markkanen (19.6), Coby White (15.5), Wendell Carter Jr. (12.8), Otto Porter Jr. (12.2) and Thaddeus Young (10.1).

Despite all the scoring on this team, the Bulls tend to beat themselves with the second highest turnover percentage (17.1%).

Given the Bulls’ struggles in transition, it’s not a surprise that this is one of the worst defenses in the league and often finds itself blowing large leads like back on Jan. 15 against the Thunder. Chicago’s mental lapses have also put it in deep holes like on Saturday night against the Blazers.

The Bulls have been getting healthier recently, with Tomas Satoransky and Chandler Hutchison recently returning last week. However, they could be without Porter due to a back injury. This is big because forward Patrick Williams appears to have hit the rookie wall as of late, struggling particularly on the defense end.

Knicks-Bulls Pick

My projections make the Bulls a 2.19 point favorite in this matchup, so it feels like the market is making you pay a premium on the Bulls. Given that they have the better offense and are facing a Knicks team on a back-to-back, perhaps it’s warranted.

Personally, I’m not seeing it. The Knicks are better on defense and should be able to score against a very subpar Bulls defense.

There’s also a big motivational edge for a Knicks team in Thibodeau. Since getting fired in 2015, during Thibodeau’s tenure with the Minnesota Timberwolves, his teams are 5-1 straight-up and against the spread against the Bulls.

I have to think that continues here against a Bulls team that doesn’t defend and lacks discipline despite their ability to score. I’ll take the +4 with the Knicks and would play this down to +3.

Pick: Knicks +4 (down to +3)

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