The Los Angeles Lakers push for a spot in the Western Conference play-in tournament — and possibly more — when they host the Chicago Bulls inside Crypto.com Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Los Angeles’ three-game winning streak has bumped the team to the No. 8 spot in the log-jammed Western standings, with the No. 6 seed just 1.5 games ahead. The Lakers’ new-look lineup has been a solid bet since swapping out their roster at the trade deadline, entering Sunday’s matinee with a 12-6 SU mark and an 11-7 ATS count since February 11.
The Bulls have also crept into play-in contention in the East, earning six wins in their last eight games to jump into the 10th spot in the standings. Chicago opened this current three-game road trip with a win and cover at Portland on Friday and is 5-2-1 ATS in those past eight outings.
I size up the spread and Over/Under total for this crucial non-conference clash and give my best NBA picks and predictions for Bulls at Lakers on March 26.
Editor's note: This article was written prior to the news of LeBron James' return.
Bulls vs Lakers best odds
Bulls vs Lakers picks and predictions
Even with D’Angelo Russell potentially sidelined for the Los Angeles Lakers, this total hit the board way too high, and the market corrected that number. Some books had this total as tall as 227 points overnight and it's since been hacked down to as low as 222.5 as of Sunday morning.
That mark may still be a little ambitious, especially when you consider the Chicago Bulls and the quality of defense that they’ll take on in L.A. this afternoon.
Chicago has been able to bully bad defenses this past month, like Portland on Friday (and did so without DeMar DeRozan), putting up its bigger outputs against softer teams like Houston, Sacramento, Indiana, and Detroit, as well as a slipping Miami defense that rates out 29th this month.
However, we’ve seen Chicago exposed against sound defensive opposition, including a pair of 91-point efforts in regulation with Philadelphia this past week, 113 points at home to Minnesota (before overtime), and 104 points to Phoenix earlier this month.
The opening Over/Under for today’s game in L.A. reflected Chicago’s red-hot shooting in Portland (17 made 3-pointers), but that touch won’t travel to California, where the Lakers patrol the perimeter better than most. On top of limiting foes to an average of 12 triples on 32.8% shooting from deep this month, L.A. does a solid job defending the pick-and-roll, which is something it will see a lot from Chicago this afternoon.
The Bulls have drawn totals of sub-220 in three of their last four games, but now have a number that was as high as 227 against what is arguably the best defense in the Western Conference since the All-Star break? Even with the significant move down on the O/U, pegging the Chicago team total at 110.5 points is asking a lot.
The Lakers have limited much more explosive offenses to around that total in recent games, checking the up-tempo Thunder, Suns, and Mavericks to 111 points each, as well as holding Orlando to 105 points.
Phoenix specifically rolls out a similar approach to Chicago, running plenty of pick-and-rolls and relying on mid-range jumpers. Los Angeles did good work disrupting those looks, especially from beyond the arc, and forced 17 turnovers in the 122-111 win.
Chicago runs out a much slower tempo than Phoenix, sitting bottom in the advanced pace ratings this month (95.34). The Lakers have no trouble going low and slow, as we’ve seen L.A.’s speedy style slow down considerably without LeBron James leading them in transition.
My best bet: Bulls team total Under 110.5 (-115 at bet365)
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Bulls vs Lakers spread analysis
Los Angeles hit the board as a 4.5-point home favorites for Sunday’s showdown with Chicago. This spread dipped as low as -2.5 briefly this morning before the sudden news of LeBron's questionable status lifted this line back to -6.
Otherwise, L.A.'s injury report has point guard D’Angelo Russell listed as questionable after he sat out Friday’s win over Oklahoma City with a minor hip injury. Standout center Anthony Davis is also questionable, but this is more of a formality with the Lakers’ star the past month and he is expected to suit up Sunday.
Chicago has some role players dinged up, with forward Javonte Green out with a sore knee and former Laker Alex Caruso questionable with a foot injury. Standout forward DeMar DeRozan is battling through a quad injury, which cost him Friday’s game in Portland, but is expected to play.
The Bulls have put together a sound stretch of games in March, entering Sunday’s road date in L.A. with a 7-4 SU record this month, going 5-5-1 ATS in that span. That includes a 124-96 victory at Portland on Friday, in which the team limited the Trail Blazers to 43% shooting, including a 6-for-31 mark from beyond the arc.
Chicago has faced some tougher opposition during this current run and leaned into its defense to get the job done. The Bulls currently sit ninth in advanced defensive rating this month, allowing an average of just 112.4 points on 46.5% shooting over those 11 outings.
Los Angeles is cut from a similar cloth, watching its defensive intensity ramp up since remaking its roster at the trade deadline. The Bulls and Lakers are No. 1 and No. 2 in defensive rating since the All-Star break, with L.A. continuing to clamp down on foes during this recent run. The Lakers are allowing less than 110 points this month while holding opponents to 45.5% shooting.
Offensively, L.A. has been a mixed bag since LeBron James went down with a foot injury on February 26. The team is scoring just over 114 points a night but isn’t as dominant in transition without James leading the charge.
Davis has stepped up with big nights during LeBron’s absence but if Russell is also out tonight, the Lakers will be without a vital member of their backcourt who can create their own shot when the offense breaks down as well as a distributor who's averaging more than 7.0 assists per game in March.
Bulls vs Lakers Over/Under analysis
This Over/Under total opened as high as 227, slimmed to as low as 222.5 points, then jumped back to 226 after LeBron's update in the injury report.
We already mentioned the defensive abilities of both clubs, with the Bulls also adding a methodical offensive attack that drags games into the mud. Chicago has run the slowest pace in the NBA since the All-Star break and maintains that standing during this month’s 7-4 SU run, which has turned out a 6-5 Over/Under count.
The Bulls sit middle of the road in efficiency, advanced rating, and points per game this month, posting more than 115 points per contest. Friday’s 124-point eruption came on 57% shooting with the club knocking down 17 of 28 shots from 3-point range for their biggest scoring effort in regulation since Feb. 24.
The Lakers won’t be as lax defending long-range today, holding their last dozen opponents to less than 33% success from distance. The moves at the trade deadline have had the biggest dividends on defense, which has led to a 6-12 Over/Under record since Feb. 11 and a 4-8 O/U count this month, including Friday’s 116-111 victory over OKC.
The Lakers are known for their up-tempo transition attack but since losing LeBron, the L.A. offense is missing a gear. Los Angeles went from No. 2 in pace rating (102.41) to No. 12 (99.93) in his absence and that has slowed even further these past three wins.
Bulls vs Lakers betting trend to know
The Under is 11-5 in the Bulls’ last 16 road games. Find more NBA betting trends for Bulls vs. Lakers.
Bulls vs Lakers game info
|Location:||Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, CA|
|Date:||Sunday, March 26, 2023|
|Tip-off:||3:30 p.m. ET|