NBA: Chicago is bullish on road trip

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NBA: Chicago is bullish on road trip


2010-01-29

The Chicago Bulls’ season-high seven-game road trip had all the makings of a disaster after they opened with losses to a pair of Western Conference also-rans. Four games later, it’s looking like the spark that’s turned the season around. The Bulls try to close the trip with a fifth straight win Friday night against the New Orleans Hornets, who look to protect one of the West’s best home records upon returning from their own successful road swing. The Hornets are the 4-point favorite at Sportsbook.com, but 70% of bettors prefer the piping-hot Bulls.

Chicago (22-22, 21-21-2 ATS) has won four in a row for the third time since Christmas, but this latest run is easily the most surprising. The Bulls were 4-15 on the road after losses to Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers to open this trip, but they’ve knocked off four consecutive playoff contenders.

Coach Vinny Del Negro (who was rumored to be almost fired right after Christmas) has seen his team shoot 50.6 percent from the floor while holding opponents to 39.4 percent, and its most impressive defensive effort came Wednesday in Oklahoma City. Chicago limited the Thunder to 36.9 percent shooting, hounding Kevin Durant into a 7-for-19 effort and leaving with a 96-86 win. The Bulls win made them 7-0 ATS in road games playing against team with a 51 to 60 percent win percentage this season and tonight offers another such opportunity.

Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas keyed a 96-85 win over New Orleans (25-20, 22-23 ATS) on Dec. 26 at the United Center. Noah had 17 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks, while Thomas had 21 points and nine boards off the bench. Chicago, which has followed its previous four-game win streaks with at least two straight losses, hasn’t won five in a row on the road since concluding the 2005-06 season on a six-game run. The Bulls are 17-6 ATS playing against a team with a winning record in the second half of the season over the last two years.

The Hornets have won 16 of 20 at home (10-10 ATS), where they return following an impressive trip. New Orleans closed with a third victory in four games - its only loss coming in overtime to Denver on Saturday - after Chris Paul had 38 points in a 123-110 win over Golden State on Wednesday. The Hornets were 6-15 and 9-12 ATS on the road heading into the trip. “This was a big trip for us. We won in some tough venues,” said Paul, who averaged 27.8 points on 58.8 percent shooting. “Everyone knows the road has been our Achilles’ heel so far.”

The play of Paul’s new backcourt mate has also been critical. Rookie Marcus Thornton averaged 18.5 points in the final two games of the trip, starting after New Orleans shipped Devin Brown to the Bulls for backup center Aaron Gray on Monday. Brown, who has yet to play for the Bulls, led New Orleans with 22 points in Chicago last month.

The Hornets’ fortunes Friday, though, may depend on David West. The two-time All-Star, scoring 17.7 points per game, has averaged 11.0 in the last two losses to the Bulls and his team is 3-5 in last eight meetings with the Bulls with two covers.

New Orleans is a four-point favorite with total of 198 at Sportsbook.com and is 24-9 ATS in home games revenging a same season loss vs. opponent and is 8-1 UNDER at home trying to get even with same team off a road loss. Despite the four consecutive road upsets, normally Chicago doesn’t set up very well in a spot like this with 12-26 ATS record off an upset win as an underdog over the last three seasons. They are 9-0 OVER as visiting dogs off the upset surprise win by 10 points or more.



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