The Sixers have been utterly dominant as the postseason nears, playing some of the best basketball we’ve seen from Embiid & Co. Even with the Bulls playing much better of late, Philly should be too much for them to handle.
It’s an Eastern Conference battle between the haves and have-nots on Monday, March 20 as the Chicago Bulls head on the road to take on the No. 2-seeded Philadelphia 76ers.
The 76ers are in the midst of an eight-game winning streak that has flipped the MVP race in favor of Joel Embiid for the first time all season.
The Bulls, meanwhile, have played some solid ball of late but are just 33-37 on the year and desperate for a spot in the Play-In Tournament.
My NBA picks and predictions for Bulls vs. 76ers believe Embiid & Co. will be too much for a Chicago squad that has shown some fight recently.
Bulls vs 76ers best odds
Bulls vs 76ers picks and predictions
I’ve never subscribed to the theory that a team can peak too soon (what should they do in the meantime, try to play worse?) but there’s no denying that the Philadelphia 76ers are playing their best ball with the playoffs less than a month away.
They’ve won eight straight and have the best point differential in the Association since the All-Star break (+10.5) and they’ve also had the best offensive rating (127) in that same span, per Cleaning the Glass.
Joel Embiid has transformed from perennial MVP bridesmaid to presumptive MVP bride, posting ludicrous averages in his 12 games since the All-Star break of 35 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 4.5 assists on 68.3% true shooting. Those stats are actually less than he might have if the 76ers weren’t blowing teams out of the water, allowing the Cameroonian phenom to rest for large stretches of fourth quarters.
That trend should continue against the Chicago Bulls, as Nikola Vucevic is not a particularly strong rim or post defender. While the Bulls’ defense has been good to great in stretches this season, they still allow some of the most valuable shots in basketball.
Chicago allows the third most 3-pointers in the NBA but unlike other quality defenses that do so, opposing offenses still get to the rim a ton. Embiid will be able to torture Chicago in the in-between spaces he loves while pressuring the rim and kicking to wide-open 76ers shooters.
Of course, none of that even takes into account Embiid’s defensive impact which has been arguably just as big. His 3.9% block percentage since the break is 92nd percentile among all bigs, and his intimidation around the rim is the lynchpin of the Philadelphia defense.
And this isn’t a one-man show in Philly anymore, either. The 76ers are clicking as a unit, with James Harden playing his finest basketball in a Sixer uniform and Tyrese Maxey rebounding into form after having rejoined the starting lineup. Maxey, Harden, and Embiid as a trio have a +11.9-point differential, placing them in the 97th percentile among three-man units in the NBA.
So why isn’t this line even bigger given the Bulls’ middling 33-37 record? To their credit, Chicago is playing solid basketball since the All-Star break as well. Though it hasn’t always translated into wins, the Bulls only trail Philadelphia in point differential since the break at +7.8.
Chicago’s defense has been remarkably sound all year long despite a slew of absences and a seeming lack of suitable personnel, and its offense has also been much better recently with Zach LaVine looking like the best version of himself. So, the Bulls are no pushover to be taken lightly.
However, the 76ers have become a “take care of their business” team this year. They’re 6-2 against the spread in their last eight games against teams with a losing record.
My best bet: 76ers -6.5 (-120 at Betway)
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Bulls vs 76ers spread analysis
In addition to the 76ers blitzing teams recently (they’re 4-0 ATS in their last four overall) there are a few other reasons to favor a Philadelphia cover. The first among them is that the Bulls don’t perform well with limited rest. The Bulls aren’t exactly old, but they aren’t young either.
DeMar has a lot of miles on the odometer and LaVine’s knees seem to benefit from rest and rehab more than the average 28-year-old shooting guard. All of that has contributed to Chicago going just 2-7 ATS in their last nine games played on a single day of rest. Conversely, the 76ers are 4-1 ATS in their last five games playing on one day’s rest.
On top of that, the Bulls have been brutal on the road this season, even lately when they’ve played much better overall. They’re just 1-6-1 ATS over their last eight away games and just 1-5 ATS in their six most recent road games against teams with a winning home record.
What that means in practice is that the Bulls are not covering against even halfway decent teams, as the only teams in the NBA without a winning home record are all certified bottom-feeders.
Bulls vs 76ers Over/Under analysis
Both these teams are riding a strong series of Unders. The Under has cashed in 10 of the Bulls’ last 14 road games, as well as 18 of their last 26 overall. The Under has also cashed in four of the 76ers’ last five games at home. Those trends have led to a modest total of 224.5 and I struggled with whether to make the Over my best bet as a result.
Because while the Unders have been cashing, these teams are set up for a shootout on Monday. The 76ers’ offensive rating over their last two weeks is a staggering 131.5.
For comparison’s sake, the Kings’ league-leading offense this season is 119.7. Seven games is not a season, but it’s also not nothing. As I discussed in the best bet section, I believe both that the Bulls’ defense is not quite as good as their rating and that Philadelphia is well disposed to take advantage of them through Embiid in the post and at the nail.
The Bulls have also managed to hit an offensive level over the last two weeks that they haven’t sniffed since early last season, playing at the level of the third-best offense in that span.
The Bulls’ offense doesn’t rely on getting all the way to the rim as much as some teams, and while I don’t believe they’ll score enough to cover, I do think they’ll contribute to this total going Over.
Bulls vs 76ers betting trend to know
The 76ers are 6-2 ATS in their last 8 games vs. a team with a losing straight up record.. Find more NBA betting trends for Bulls vs. 76ers.
Bulls vs 76ers game info
|Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
|Monday, March 20, 2023
|7:00 p.m. ET