The Thursday night national TV schedule features two Eastern Conference games, so all of us on the east coast can catch the games without falling asleep at work the next day. The late game features the Bulls hosting their rivals the Boston Celtics. 

The Bulls have had a couple of days off since their loss against the Rockets, and I’m sure they are ready to get back in the win column. Chicago is favored on the NBA odds board by -6 here, with a total of just 176 points. Both of these teams need a win, but only one can walk out of the United Center with one on Thursday night. 

 

Green means go 

The Boston Celtics were one point underdogs at some sportsbooks last night, and at some they were a pick em’ against the Spurs. The Celtics played a great game, but the Spurs ended up being too strong and the Spurs walked out of Boston with a one point win, 87-86. Even though Ray Allen made his return from an ankle injury, no Carlos BoozerCeltic scored 20 points, and the Big Three were not even one of the top two scorers. Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo led the Celtics in scoring, so from here on out, I’m retiring the Celtics Big Three label for Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. From now on, they are the Old Three. 

Rondo and the Old Three had to travel last night from Boston to Chicago to face a well rested and angry Bulls team. The Bulls own the season series 2-1 SU and 2-1 ATS against the Celtics. The most recent game was in Chicago and the Bulls won 89-80. 

Until last night against the Spurs, the Celtics were on a nice hot streak, winning five in a row, including a huge 91-72 victory over the Heat in Boston. What will be interesting about this game is that both teams’ ATS records are not so good in this spot. The Bulls are only 12-14-1 ATS at home, while the Celtics are 11-14 ATS on the road. 

Rose bud 

It’s not just my subtitle for this section, and it’s not just the key metaphor in the movie Citizen Kane, it’s the possibility that Derrick Rose could make his return to the Bulls’ lineup. Rose has missed the Bulls’ last eleven games with a severe groin injury, and practiced fully Wednesday. Now, in true Bulls fashion this season, this could mean nothing, or it could mean everything. The Bulls are reaching crunch time when it comes to Rose getting his conditioning and timing back. If he plays tonight, it could be a long night for the tired Celtics. 

Even if Rose does not play, the Bulls will hold the advantage on the Celtics off of a back to back travel night. Boston is only 7-8 SU off of back to backs this season. Chicago has lost two in a row, something they have not done in the regular season for almost a year. 

The Sharp Pick 

One of the key factors that will lead to the cover tonight will be the Bulls’ ability to rebound the ball, versus the Celtics’ inability to board. The Celtics are the worst rebounding team in the league, versus the best rebounding team. Chicago averages nearly eight more boards per contest. It won’t help that Boston will be without Jermaine O’Neal. 

This will surely be a defensive game, but the C’s will have tired legs, and the Bulls have young and rested legs. It might be close, (most Boston vs. Chicago games are) but in the end, I see the Bulls coming away with a cover, Rose or no Rose. The Bulls’ bench and fourth quarter execution will be too much so get them in your NBA picks

My Pick: Bulls -6