- The Chicago Bulls try to make it three straight wins as they visit the Philadelphia 76ers
- Joel Embiid is fourth in scoring in the NBA; Zach LaVine ranks sixth
- Check the odds, analysis and betting preview below
Powered by the star play of Zach LaVine, the Chicago Bulls are in the mix for the East playoffs, searching for their third win in a row. They’ll get a glimpse of how they stack up to the beasts of the East, as they visit the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, and MVP and DPOY candidate Joel Embiid.
Even though the Sixers are slumping, having lost three of their last four, they have feasted on conference foes, which is why they enter this one as 9-point home favorites.
Bulls vs 76ers Odds
|Chicago Bulls||+9 (-110)||+320||N/A|
|Philadelphia 76ers||-9 (-110)||-405||N/A|
Odds from FanDuel taken February 18. Tip-off is Friday at 7:30pm ET
Look Who’s Hanging
You would expect the conference-leading 76ers are up there in most offensive categories, but surprisingly, Billy Donovan has unlocked something that has the Bulls looking more potent on the offensive end.
They’re in a three-way tie with Philadelphia and New Orleans in scoring at 114.6 points per game, eighth in shooting from the field (47.8% – the 76ers are tied for fifth), and seventh in 3-point shooting (38% – the 76ers are 17th).
Zach LaVine went off for 37 points in a big 25-point comeback against the Pistons 🔥 pic.twitter.com/84lFo1WzKI
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) February 18, 2021
The engine is LaVine, who is still just 25, and emerging as a superstar in the NBA. He’s sixth in league scoring at 28.5 points per game, shooting it at a dazzling 43.7% from behind the arc, to go along with 5.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists a night. He was the catalyst last time out against the Pistons, dropping 37, adding five rebounds, five assists and three steals in a 105-102 win.
He paces a Bulls attack that features seven players averaging double digits in scoring, though two of those players, Laurie Markkanen and Otto Porter Jr, will miss Friday’s game due to injury.
Coby White 12 assists. Zach LaVine 9 3s.
Backcourt goals right here pic.twitter.com/xw4YFsS3Kj
— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) January 10, 2021
LaVine’s backcourt mate Coby White has been a breakout player in his second season. He leads the team in assists at 5.4 a game, while chipping in 15.8 points and 4.7 rebounds.
But while they can score on anyone, the Bulls are a sieve defensively. They are fifth-worst in points allowed, giving up 115.4 a night.
Embiid a Difference Maker
Maybe I’m the only one to notice, but Joel Embiid has been a lot less of a bully this year, talking less smack and generally staying away from the game-within-a-game nonsense. That doesn’t mean he isn’t the biggest, baddest bully in between the lines, as his play has pushed Philly to the top of the East at 19-10.
Embiid is fourth in the league in scoring at 29.7 points a game, while adding 10.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks. Down Ben Simmons to a stomach virus last time out, the big man carried the 76ers to a 118-113 victory over the Rockets and helped snap a 3-game losing skid.
Joel Embiid vs Rockets (36 min)
31 points (10-21 FG) (10-12 FT)
11 rebounds 9 assists 2 steals 1 block pic.twitter.com/lxZ2W2sjyu
— Jayhawks In The NBA (@NBA_Jayhawks) February 18, 2021
He finished with 31 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in 37 minutes of work. They’re getting better performance from Tobias Harris as well, who’s averaging better than 20 points a game this season as well as eight boards per.
We know Simmons is the do-everything guy that defends the best players, is the team’s best passer and all around energy guy, but the additions of Seth Curry and Danny Green have really opened up the floor spacing, allowing Embiid to work down low one-on-one, and punishing teams with passing out of the double team to able shooters.
Joel Embiid and Seth Curry utilize their spacing to create opportunities for one another! #NBABreakdown
76ers/Rockets – 7:30pm/et, ESPN pic.twitter.com/GA3RmahsIf
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) February 17, 2021
They may be only 17th in 3-point shooting this year, and off their pace a season ago, but it’s the way Doc Rivers has incorporated the money ball into the offense that’s made them look far more potent.
What’s the Best Bet?
The Bulls can score, but they are going to have a hard time trying to contain Embiid. Wendell Carter Jr and Daniel Gafford are going to have major issues against the 76ers big man. Philly has also lost just four times in 19 games to East opponents.
But the Bulls’ biggest weapon is three-point shooting, and the 76ers only rank 17th in three-point defense, letting teams hit at a 37% clip.
And prior to their win over the Rockets, they had surrendered 124 points a game. It will take a big game from LaVine, but with Simmons still likely not 100% in this one, let’s take the points in a closer Philly win than expected.
The pick: Bulls +9 (-110)
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