Party like it’s 1997 because, for the first time since then, the Chicago Bulls are 4-0.
But their toughest test of the season comes on Thursday night when they host the 3-1 New York Knicks. It is Joakim Noah Night at the United Center, and one could argue this is the most significant Bulls game since the 2017 playoffs.
Tom Thibodeau, Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson will be on the other sideline. With the Bears scuffling and the Blackhawks muddled in scandal, the city is ready to get behind the Bulls.
They are favored against the Knicks — barely. Let’s take a look at the odds at Illinois online sportsbooks.
Knicks @ Bulls odds
The Chicago Bulls are short favorites as of Thursday morning, but Zach LaVine’s status could move the line either way:
LaVine, Chicago’s best player, is questionable with a thumb injury.
According to reports, LaVine has a small ligament tear in his non-shooting thumb and intends to play through the injury. However, it appears he suffered the injury against the Raptors on Monday, which is fairly recent.
LaVine has picked up where he left off last season, averaging 25.5 points per game on 50% shooting. For the first time in his NBA career, he has won four games in a row. But it’s fair to highlight Chicago’s weak schedule to date.
The Bulls have beaten the Pelicans, Raptors and Pistons (twice). The Raptors win is solid, but overall, the Bulls opponents’ combined record is 3-13.
In fairness, the Knicks have played the lowly Magic twice, but they have also beaten the 76ers and Celtics.
Coming into this season, it seemed like the Bulls would be excellent on offense and mediocre at best on defense. The opposite was true of the Knicks.
It’s early, but that’s not how things have played out thus far. The Bulls are second in the NBA in defensive rating, while the Knicks are 16th.
On the flip side, the Knicks are fourth in offense while the Bulls are 14th. Chicago has been more efficient overall, edging New York in net rating by 2.2 points.
Julius Randle is the Knicks’ best player — he’s averaging 25.5 points, 11.3 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game. And if there is a flaw in the Bulls’ roster construction, it’s their lack of size.
Patrick Williams will likely start the game guarding Randle, but he’ll be at a size disadvantage. And center Nikola Vucevic likely isn’t mobile enough to keep up with Randle.
Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso have drastically improved Chicago’s perimeter defense, but they won’t spend significant chunks of time on a power forward like Randle. If the Knicks win and cover, expect a big game from their reigning All-Star.
DraftKings incentivizing Chicago backers with $20 free bet
DraftKings Sportsbook in Illinois has an interesting Bulls offer this week.
Bet $100 on the Bulls to win moneyline on Thursday or Saturday against the Jazz, and users will get a $20 free bet. It doesn’t matter if the Bulls win or not, though obviously, bettors would prefer that they do.
The promotion was also available for the Raptors game, which Chicago won. But if you missed out on that one, it’s not too late.
And while the offer will still be live for the Jazz game, it is probably wiser to use it against the Knicks. Chicago is favored against New York, and that may not be the case vs. Utah.
The Jazz are 3-0 this season and finished with the most wins in the Western Conference last year. Both games are huge tests for Chicago, but it would seem the Bulls have better odds to knock off the Knicks.