The Los Angeles Lakers blow into the Windy City for a return matchup with the Chicago Bulls tonight.
Chicago spoiled LeBron James’ return to L.A.’s lineup Sunday, winning 118-108 as a 5-point road underdog. The Bulls followed that with a road loss to the Lakers’ roommates, the Clippers, before coming back home for a brief one-game stop to host the Purple and Gold on Wednesday.
Los Angeles is clinging to the No. 9 spot in the West and a spot in the play-in tournament while Chicago seems parked in the 10th and final slot in the East’s play-in picture, barring a late-season swoon.
I run down the spread and Over/Under total for this non-conference contest and give my best NBA picks and predictions for Lakers vs. Bulls on March 29.
Lakers vs Bulls best odds
Lakers vs Bulls picks and predictions
Lakers center Anthony Davis may not be in the MVP conversation, but the big man was huge for the Purple and Gold as they pushed for a postseason ticket, not only without LeBron James in the lineup but also missing guard D’Angelo Russell for a number of games.
Tonight’s trip to Chicago could be the first time L.A. gets Davis, James, and Russell on the floor since February 23. Russell's expected back after missing two games with a banged-up hip and he’s been in and out of the Lakers’ lineup since the franchise traded for their former guard at the deadline.
Davis averaged over 27 points per game in James’ absence, shooting an average of 17.6 field goal attempts while knocking down almost 10 shots per game. With James and Russell both sidelined, “The Brow” pumped up that production to 33 points on 20.6 shots per game (making 11.6).
But, in the six games with just AD and Russell in action, Davis’ touches took a tumble and his offensive output dipped to 21.3 average points while making an average of 8 of 15 shots from the field.
While James’ status is still up in the air tonight, Russell is expected to suit up alongside Davis in AD’s hometown. And should LeBron play his second straight game, the offensive touches get spread over three capable scorers. We’ve also seen shooting guard Austin Reeves more involved in the offense, averaging almost 11 field goal attempts over the last five games while earning a spot in the staring lineup.
Davis finished Sunday’s home stand versus the Bulls with just 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting in 36 minutes, with James coming off the bench for 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting in 30 minutes. Sunday’s matchup was played at a very slow pace, with a sudden surge from Chicago late in the first quarter/early in the second pushing the total Over.
The Bulls were also without starting center Nikola Vucevic for the final third of that game after he was tossed for arguing with the refs. Backup big Andre Drummond came in and did a great job frustrating Davis on both ends of the floor.
Davis’ points prop for tonight is as high as 25.5 (Under -115). While he’s capable of topping this total, the touches just aren’t going to be there — especially if James is available.
Davis has gone Under his point projection in six of his last eight outings and faces a Bulls team that does a solid job slowing down rival centers. Since the All-Star break, Chicago is among the best defensive clubs in the NBA and gives up an average of just 20.2 points per game to the position.
My best bet: Anthony Davis Under 25.5 points (-115)
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Lakers vs Bulls spread analysis
This spread opened as low as a pick’em, but with Los Angeles expected to have Davis and Russell in action, the line has bounced between -1.5 and -2 for the visitor.
James is currently listed as questionable after a surprise return to play last weekend and an upgrade in his status will inflate this line, much like it did Sunday. The Lakers jumped from 3-point favorites to -6 when James was upgraded from out to questionable and testing his injured foot in warmups.
The loss to the Bulls was a bad one for the Lakers, who are in the midst of the standings logjam in the Western Conference, with just 3.5 games separating fourth and 10th place. Los Angeles brought a three-game winning streak into Sunday’s matchup with Chicago, but was listless on defense and watched the Bulls shoot 54% from the field, while committing 18 turnovers, which led to 34 points for Chicago off those mistakes.
Defense has been the Lakers’ strongest attribute since swapping out the bulk of their roster at the trade deadline, allowing an average of 111 points against and owning a defensive rating of 110.5 (tied for first) in the past 19 games. Los Angeles is 12-7 SU and 11-8 ATS since that remade roster took the floor on February 11, and battled hard without LeBron for the bulk of those games.
Chicago has also leaned into its defense down the stretch of the schedule, boasting the sixth-best defensive rating since the All-Star break. The Bulls are 10-6 SU with an 8-7-1 ATS mark since that checkpoint, but just 4-4 SU and ATS at home in that span.
Lakers vs Bulls Over/Under analysis
The Over/Under opened at 225.5 points and has bounced as high as 226.5 as of Wednesday morning.
Sunday’s game in L.A. opened with a total as tall as 227 and drew Under money early, bringing the number down as low as 224 points before LeBron’s sudden status shift pumped the total back to a closing mark of 224.5.
A red-hot second quarter for Chicago, in which it scored 36 points, did most of the damage and the 118-108 final score finished just Over the number. The game finished with a pace rating of 95.0 and both teams were solid shooting, with Chicago making 54% of attempts and the Lakers hitting at a 51% clip.
As mentioned, the Lakers’ identity has been defense since swapping out a ton of bodies at the deadline. The 118 points allowed to the Bulls was the most allowed by Los Angeles this month and just the fifth Over results for L.A. in the first 13 games in March.
Chicago enters this one-game home stop on a three-game Over run, topping totals of 219.5, 219.5, and 244.5 along the way. The Bulls struggled in the second night of back-to-back outings against the Clippers on Monday, with the other L.A. team scoring 124 points on 59% shooting, including a 20-for-40 mark from beyond the arc.
Chicago is running out an extremely slow tempo on offense this month, sitting 30th in pace rating (95.48) and producing an average of 115.3 points per game. Los Angeles used to be one of the quick up-and-down teams in the NBA and thrives in transition, but hasn’t had that gear with LeBron out of the lineup. His ability to push the ball and attack the rim has a major influence on just how fast Los Angeles plays.
Lakers vs Bulls betting trend to know
The Under is 11-5-1 in the Lakers’ last 17 games overall (69% Unders). Find more NBA betting trends for Lakers vs. Bulls.
Lakers vs Bulls game info
|Location:||United Center, Chicago, IL|
|Date:||Wednesday, March 29, 2023|
|Tip-off:||8:00 p.m. ET|