How to play the first trimester spread

The NBA is back with 13 games after a short one-day hiatus. This massive slate offers several exciting matchups, including the one between the Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Pelicans in Chicago.

Focusing on the first quarter of the game, New Orleans is currently favored by up to 1.5 points with a total pegged at 56.5. While both teams are playing slow and have an offense that clicks well early in games, New Orleans’ defense is significantly better and should propel them to win the first quarter of the game.

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Pelicans-Bulls Best Bet: First Quarter Spread

Starting with the home team, Chicago has the 13e-the worst net rating in the first quarter, losing by an average margin of 1.1 points. Their defense is the main culprit – despite playing at the sixth slowest pace, the team allows their opponents to shoot extremely well (58.8% effective FG%, third best in the league) and score a averaged 29.9 points in the first quarter, seventh-most in the league. Notably, opposing teams convert on almost half of their 3-point attempts (49.1%) and average 4.4 made 3-pointers per opening quarter against the Bulls, most in the conference in the two categories.

Offensively, the team has the eighth best rating (115.8) despite an average effective FG% (54.2%), scoring an average of 28.8 points in the first quarter (13e-more). While it’s not a bad offensive outing, it’s just not enough to make up for their lackluster defense.

Unlike Chicago, New Orleans’ first-quarter defense is elite and ranks first in the league (99.6). Largely due to this defense, the team has the third-best net rating in the league in the first quarter (13.8), winning by an average margin of 3.5 points. The Pelicans play at a slow pace (eighth slowest) and limit opponents to 49.4% FG% effective, the second-lowest rating in the league. As a result, opposing teams are averaging just 25.2 points in the first quarter against the Pelicans, the fewest in the league. Notably, they limit opponents to just 2.7 free throw attempts and 2.6 made 3-pointers per opening quarter, the league’s fewest and second-fewest, respectively.

The team is also doing well offensively, having the 12e-highest grade in the first quarter while scoring 28.7 points per opening quarter, 15e– the most in the league. They don’t tend to take (7.2) or make (3.2) an abundance of 3-pointers, but they’ve only attempted 10 (making it 7) in the first quarter of their last out against the Pacers, another team with poor perimeter defense. The Pelicans rely on points in the paint (13.4, ninth) and points on turnovers (6, fifth) to generate points early in games, two areas where the Chicago defense is actually decent. While not an ideal, their willingness to shoot as many threes as they did against the Pacers is encouraging given Chicago’s 3-point defense to date.

New Orleans lost the first quarter to Indiana after allowing the Pacers to make six 3-pointers (on 13 attempts), about double their season average. A similar scenario in tonight’s game is still possible but unlikely given the Pelicans’ perimeter defense so far this season and Chicago’s 7.4 3-point attempts and 2.7 made 3 per opening quarter are fifth and fourth lowest in the league, respectively.

Chicago will need an outlier performance to win the quarter – maintain offensive production, play better defensively and hope for another poor early defensive performance from New Orleans. The same cannot be said for the Pelicans who will simply have to play at their own level to win.

Betting on the Pelicans to win tonight’s first quarter (-0.5, best odds at the time of writing are -110) should prove beneficial.

Pelicans-Bulls Best Bet: Pelicans -0.5 Spread in Q1 (-110 to FanDuel).

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