Trail Blazers vs. Bulls Odds & Picks: Should Portland Be Favored Saturday Night?
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images. Pictured: Damian Lillard
- The Bulls are a short favorite over the shorthanded Blazers on Saturday night, but should Portland really be getting points in this spot?
- Brandon Anderson explains why he likes the volatile Blazers outright in this spot.
Trail Blazers vs. Bulls Odds
|Trail Blazers Odds||+2.5|
|Moneyline||+120 / -140|
|Time||8 p.m. ET|
|TV||NBA League Pass|
When I was a kid, Bulls vs. Blazers meant something.
It meant the 1992 Finals, when Portland’s Clyde Drexler might have been the second best basketball player in the world but just happened to run up against the best one in Michael Jordan.
It meant Terry Porter, Kevin Duckworth, and Scottie Pippen. It meant MJ hitting a barrage of treys and shrugging his way down the court.
And it meant an awesome video game with real NBA players, likenesses, and stats, one of the first of its kind.
This version of Bulls vs. Blazers isn’t quite as exciting. Instead of Clyde and MJ, we get Damian Lillard and Zach LaVine. The Bulls don’t have anything resembling Scottie Pippen — sorry Chandler Hutchison — and I’m pretty sure Carmelo Anthony wasn’t in the NBA the last time this was a rivalry.
Still, Dame and Zach are a pretty fun headliner, and there should be plenty of scoring in an up-and-down battle.
Portland Trail Blazers
I really liked the Blazers heading into the new season. I loved that they were finally getting back a healthy version of the guy I thought was their second best player in Jusuf Nurkic, and I really liked the addition of new forwards Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr.
Well, none of that has worked out for Portland. Nurkic never looked particularly healthy or great and is now sidelined with another injury, and he was far from the second best Blazer, especially with C.J. McCollum playing lights out over the first month. But now McCollum is out too, leaving the Blazers without two of their three biggest offensive weapons.
That’s bad news because the rest of the Blazers team was built to add defense around those three. That’s where Covington and Jones were supposed to come in, but neither of them has been good enough on defense this season, and they’ve both been total zeroes on offense. Instead, Portland has been left with an inconsistent offense that’s over reliant on Damian Lillard along with a dumpster fire defense.
As you might guess, that hasn’t exactly been a winning formula for Portland.
The Blazers are 9-8 but have a bottom three defensive efficiency and an offense that relies far too heavily on 3-pointers. Portland fires up the second most threes in the league, so the offense can run extremely hot and cold. The Blazers rank dead last in the NBA in assists and near the bottom of the league scoring inside the arc. With McCollum and Nurkic out, there’s a whole lot of Dame, Melo, and Enes Kanter just taking turns trying to score.
And as you might guess, the defense has been worse than ever with those three in the starting lineup together. Covington and Jones are question marks for this one with injuries too, so that leaves Portland without four of the top six guys in the rotation. It means huge minutes for Gary Trent and way too much time on the court for Anfernee Simons and Harry Giles.
Still, the Blazers are scrapping. They’ve played three straight 3-point games against the Knicks, Thunder, and Rockets over the past week, winning one and losing two. That’s not a real badge of honor, but if you think the Bulls are in a similar boat with those teams, it’s a good sign that Portland probably won’t roll over and die here, even when the Blazers are so shorthanded.
The Bulls are much better than last season while still not being particularly good. The floor has been raised significantly with Billy Donovan replacing the worst coach in the league, Jim Boylen.
Chicago is 7-10 and looks deserving of that record. The Bulls certainly score plenty of points. At 115.3 PPG, they rank third in the NBA in scoring, but most of that is just pace. Chicago has the second fastest pace in the league but ranks just No. 18 in Offensive Efficiency.
The Bulls have also allowed the third-most points in the league, and that stat is not misleading. Chicago still doesn’t play much defense. LaVine and Coby White are terrible defenders at the top of the attack, and there’s just not much else there to fix things.
Chicago’s youngest players have really struggled this season. Coby White is averaging 15.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 5.6 assists but hitting only 40% of his field goals and struggling mightily in defense. He looked like he was breaking out before the hiatus when he moved into a starting role, but he’s really struggled as a sophomore.
Rookie Patrick Williams is starting every game too, but is also struggling. He’s not making much of an impact on the box score and has had a hard time finding an offensive fit, though he does have some flashes on defense.
LaVine’s numbers put him in All-Star consideration. LaVine is scoring 27 points a game and averaging five rebounds and five assists on top of it. He and Lauri Markkanen have done the most to lift this offense, with Otto Porter the faithful veteran doing his part.
Chicago is actually scoring quite efficiently, when they can actually run the offense. The Bulls rank fifth in effective field goal percentage. Chicago is taking and making a lot of threes, and they’re scoring well at the line too. Chicago’s defense is giving up those same things, but the offense is giving itself a chance.
So what’s the problem? In Chicago’s rush to quicken the pace, the team is leading the league with 18.1 turnovers a game. The Bulls are just giving the ball away far too often, and that prevents them from keeping the ball enough to score well.
Trail Blazers-Bulls Pick
It might sound kind of obvious, but the key battle here may be the number of scoring opportunities. Chicago turns the ball over more than any team in the NBA, and the Blazers have the second fewest turnovers of any team. That should mean more scoring opportunities for an offense that’s already a bit better overall with the better superstar scorer.
I’m not expecting either team to flash a ton of defense here, but with a total at 232, the books have already accounted for the high-scoring affair to come. Both teams can score the ball, but Chicago’s wounds are self-inflicted with the high turnover margin. Chicago doesn’t have the right offense to punish the Blazers for having Melo and Kanter out there so much.
I think the Blazers are the slightly better team, even without McCollum and Nurkic. The Bulls opened as slight favorites here, but I have Portland as the slight favorite. In close to a coin flip game, I’ll take the Blazers moneyline at plus odds and hope Dame and the Portland offense find a way.
PointsBet has the best number at +120 as of Saturday morning.
Pick: Blazers moneyline (+120)