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Eastern Conference Clash: Chicago Bulls at Indiana Pacers

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Chicago is coming off an emotional 108-105 win over Oklahoma City and now have to travel to Indiana without Derrick Rose (right knee), Taj Gibson (ankle) and Jimmy Butler (left elbow). Rose is in the early stages of his rehab from a torn meniscus in his right knee, Rose is expected to miss three-to-four weeks with a sprained elbow and Gibson is still hobbled with an ankle injury. Butler leads the team in scoring with 20.2 points per game, while Rose is second with 18.4 points per game. Gibson was averaging 10.6 points and 6.6 rebounds in 28:06 minutes per game before falling to injury.

Chicago’s win last night also places it squarely in a negative 23-68-3 ATS road letdown situation of mine that invests against an unrested road underdogs off a win, provided they are matched up against a team off one or more consecutive wins. Despite taking the court with a 26-34 record, the Pacers have been playing excellent basketball of late, winning nine of their last 11 games, including victories over Cleveland (twice) and Golden State. In fact, Indiana finds itself a half-game behind Charlotte for eighth place in the Eastern Conference after being in 12th place on January 31. “We’re just playing basketball the right way now,” said George Hill. “I’m just trying to be aggressive and lead this team.”

The Pacers’ turnaround has been remarkable in that they have held opponents to just 94.4 points per game during the 9-2 stretch, while scoring 101.2 points per game. I expect the defensive numbers to improve further tonight in light of the fact that Pacers have limited Chicago to a mere 90.0 points in their last six meetings. Overall, Indiana is allowing 96.5 points per game to teams that would combine to average 99.4 points per game, which is certainly good enough to shut down an injury-riddled Chicago attack that is just 1.4 points per game better than average (101.3 points per game against teams that would combine to allow 99.9 points per game).

Even better news for Indiana investors is the fact that the Pacers are limiting opponents to 94.8 points per game at home (42.7% FG) and to 89.0 points over the last five games (38.0% FG; 31.9% 3-PT). Meanwhile, Chicago is averaging an alarming 94.6 points on 40.2% shooting from the field and 29.7% from beyond the arc.

Let’s also note that Chicago is playing its first road game since February 20 and has lost four if its last six away from home. Variance was also at play in last night’s game against Oklahoma City as E’Twaun Moore scored a season-high 19 points, including the winning three-pointer with 2.1 seconds left. Moore’s performance was an outlier as the young guard was averaging just 1.9 points per game prior to Thursday’s contest.

From a technical standpoint, Chicago is 10-19 ATS versus teams with a losing record, 6-13 ATS off a win, 3-11 ATS after covering the spread and 5-12 ATS in its last seventeen games versus Eastern Conference foes. Conversely, Indiana is 7-0 ATS in its last seven home games, 5-1 ATS in its last six games off a win and 7-1 ATS in its last eight games overall. Finally, the home team is 6-1 ATS in this series, while the Bulls are 1-4 ATS in their last five trips to Indiana. Lay the points with one of the most underrated (and undervalued) teams in the league and invest with confidence.

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