Christmas Day Chicago Bulls @ Los Angeles Lakers Odds, Free Picks and Predictions -NBA Picks and Odds 12/25/11: After failing to three-peat as NBA champions this past season, the Los Angeles Lakers have plenty of questions to answer following a tumultuous offseason when they host the Chicago Bulls opening day. Meanwhile, the Bulls are coming off a year when they won an NBA best 62 games and are looking to take the next step and bring a title back to Chicago. There is plenty of star power on both sides in this matchup, with defending MVP Derrick Rose running the point for the Bulls and the always-dangerous Kobe Bryant leading the Lakers. Although the game will be played at the Staples Center, the Bulls are three-point favorites.
Looking at Chicago’s roster, it is easy to understand why the Bulls are favored. Rose is the youngest MVP in league history, and he has managed to expand his game with each passing year. Forward Luol Deng is a versatile scorer, center Joakim Noah is a strong defender and rebounder, and power forward Carlos Boozer is an interior scorer. Throw in newly acquired veteran Richard Hamilton, and the Bulls have a nice mix of talent, length, youth and experience.
Meanwhile, the Lakers are a team in transition. Coach Phil Jackson is out, along with his triangle offense. A trade to bring point guard Chris Paul to down was vetoed, leaving the Lakers without a star to play alongside Bryant and upsetting forward Lamar Odom to the point where he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks for next to nothing. Losing Odom means the Los Angeles will have to rely on the oft-injured center Andrew Bynum. If Bynum were to suffer yet another injury, the Lakers would basically be down to Bryant and power forward Pau Gasol as reliable options.
The Lakers lineup is even more questionable for the opener against Chicago. Bryant is dealing with a wrist injury, which could affect his shooting. Not to mention that Bynum is serving a four-game suspension for his flagrant foul in last year’s playoffs. The Bulls were one of the top teams in the NBA when it came to defending the paint last season, and if the trend continues, Gasol could find life tough as the long scoring option for the Lakers in the post. If Gasol is limited, the injured Bryant will be leaned on even more heavily. While making Bryant take a majority of the shots isn’t always a good idea, it might not be a bad strategy for Chicago considering his ailing wrist.
An X-factor could be Los Angeles forward Metta World Peace. Formerly known as Ron Artest, World Peace is still one of the more versatile and more physical defenders. He will likely be asked to guard Rose Sunday. If he can slow down the Bulls’ catalyst, Chicago could struggle on the offensive end. A low-scoring game definitely favors the Lakers. If World Peace can hit a few perimeter shots on the offensive end as well, he could end up being the most valuable player in this matchup.
In the end, the injury to Bryant and Bynum’s suspension are going to prove costly. The Bulls are legitimate title contenders with enough talent to take on the Lakers at full strength. Facing a weakened Los Angeles team, Chicago could win this one going away. Granted, Bryant ha s a knack for coming up big on big stages, but there are just too many holes in the Lakers’ Christmas Day roster for Bryant to overcome at less than 100 percent.
Prediction: Chicago Bulls (-3) Cover the Spread
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