Chicago Bulls vs. New Orleans Hornets Preview and Pick

Chicago Bulls (26-39) +6, 201 at New Orleans Hornets (44-21), 8 pm Eastern Monday
by Zman of Predictem.com

One team looking to hold on to a top-four playoff seed and thus home-court advantage in a first-round series meets another team trying to sneak in the back door of the playoff party when the New Orleans Hornets host the Chicago Bulls Monday night.

But New Orleans might be a bit short-handed Monday, and hobbled. Forward David West (20 points and nine rebounds per game this season) is listed as questionable for Monday’s game because of an ankle injury, and guard and MVP candidate Chris Paul is also dealing with a bad wheel. But at least Paul is listed as probable.

NBA Sportsbooks list the Hornets as six-point home favorites for Monday’s game, with a total of 201. Also, New Orleans is posted at around -260 on various Vegas moneylines, with Chicago getting +220 as road underdogs.

The Bulls are coming off a 110-106 loss at Philadelphia Friday night, a game they led by 18 points early in the fourth quarter. So Chicago has lost three of its last four games at a terrible time. The Bulls are 21 games back of the Detroit Pistons in the Central Division, but more importantly, Chicago is 10th in the Eastern Conference standings, just a game and a half back of the Atlanta Hawks and New Jersey Nets, who are tied for the eighth and final East playoff slot.

The Hornets lost at Detroit Sunday 105-84, but they have managed to go 7-3 since suffering a three-game losing streak three weeks ago. But New Orleans has got to be careful; while they sit in second place in the Southwest Division, just a game and a half back of the smokin’ hot Houston Rockets, they’re also now in third place in the Western Conference standings, just a half-game ahead of the fifth-place Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs. And the Hornets are only three games ahead of the eighth-place Golden State Warriors.

In the first meeting this season between these two teams, New Orleans got 52 points, 11 rebounds and 17 assists from Paul and West in beating the Bulls in Chicago 100-86 Feb. 12. Chicago actually led that game by seven points at halftime, but the Hornets won the second half by a 57-36 margin. And the Bulls played that night without Ben Gordon and Luol Deng. Last season, Chicago swept two games from New Orleans, by scores of 104-93 and 111-108.

The Bulls have made a couple of moves this season, but neither has made much of an impact in the W-L column. Chicago is 17-23 since firing head coach Scott Skiles and replacing him with Jim Boyland back around Christmas. And since trading (essentially) Ben Wallace and Joe Smith for Drew Gooden and Larry Hughes, the Bulls are just 4-7.

Chicago is also 29-36 overall against the spread this season, and 11-23 straight up and 16-18 vs. the numbers on the road.

Meanwhile, the Hornets are a profitable 40-24 ATS this season, 24-10 SU and 21-13 vs. the numbers at home.

New Orleans ranks 6th in the league in point differential at +5.0 per game, the Bulls 20th at -2.5.

Chicago is shooting 43% from the field as a team this season, 35% from 3-point range and 75% from the free-throw line. At the other end of the court, the Hornets are shooting 46% from the floor, 39% from long range and 77% from the line.

Also, Chicago ranks 7th in the league in FG defense at 45% and 12th in rebounding at +1.0 per game, while New Orleans ranks 17th in FG defense at 46% and 7th in rebounding at +1.9 per game.

And the Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings at USAToday.com rank the Hornets 5th at 95.4, the Bulls 21st at 87.0. Sagarin’s current NBA home-court advantage figure is 3.4.

The o/u is 33-30 in Chicago games this season, which are averaging 196 total points, while the totals are 31-33 in New Orleans games, which are averaging 195 points.

Zman’s Pick: Take the Bulls plus the points.