Our team of writers and handicappers hand out their NBA and College Basketball picks and predictions for Thursday, January 15.
Cleveland Cavilers at Chicago Bulls, 8:05PM ET
LeBron James has torched the Chicago Bulls in recent years, including a pair of 41-point performances earlier this season.
In their latest meeting, the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar decided to let his teammates do the majority of the work.
James earned his second triple-double of the season in Cleveland's latest win, and on Thursday he'll face the team against which he compiled his first as the visiting Cavaliers look to complete a season sweep of the Bulls.
James chose his No. 23 because of his admiration for Michael Jordan growing up, and when he's faced Chicago, he's often done just what Jordan used to do to Cleveland - score at will.
The NBA's reigning scoring champion had averaged 37.7 points in his last seven games against the Bulls heading into a meeting at Quicken Loans Arena earlier this month. He scored 41 points just four days apart in early November as the league-leading Cavaliers (30-6) beat Chicago twice.
In Cleveland's first game of the new year, though, James didn't need anywhere near the 29 shots he hoisted during a 106-97 win at the United Center on Nov. 8. Instead, he took just eight shots, finishing with 16 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds - his first triple-double of the season - in a 117-92 blowout.
Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets, 10:35PM ET
The Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets have each pulled off a blockbuster trade in the last year to demonstrate a new commitment to defense.
Based on recent results, both moves are working out just as well on the offensive end.
Shaquille O'Neal looks to continue his hot streak for the surging Suns on Thursday night when they visit the Nuggets, who have ridden Chauncey Billups to the top of the Northwest Division.
Phoenix (22-13) traded for O'Neal at last season's deadline to help the team transition from an offensive-oriented system to a more balanced approach.
The 36-year-old veteran endured some growing pains with the Suns, but he's averaging 22.4 points and 10.1 rebounds while shooting 59.1 percent from the field in 12 games since Dec. 6. Phoenix is 10-2 in those contests and 1-2 in games O'Neal has missed in that stretch.
O'Neal delivered his third consecutive double-double with 26 points and 10 boards in a 107-102 win over Atlanta on Tuesday night ? Phoenix's sixth victory in seven games.
Purdue Boilermakers at Northwestern, 7:00PM ET
Opening conference play with back-to-back losses was a shock for a ranked Purdue team expecting to compete for the Big Ten title.
Northwestern's slow start in conference play was less of a surprise.
The 19th-ranked Boilermakers look to build on their first conference win Thursday as they visit a struggling Wildcats squad hoping to avoid its third straight 0-4 Big Ten start.
Purdue (12-4, 1-2) was ranked as high as ninth in the AP poll during its 11-2 start. The Boilermakers' only losses in that stretch came against then-No. 11 Oklahoma and then-No. 4 Duke.
The strong start to the season raised expectations for conference play, but the Boilermakers faltered early, dropping their Big Ten opener 71-67 in overtime at home against Illinois on Dec. 30. They followed that defeat with a 67-64 loss at Penn State on Jan. 6.
Robbie Hummel, the Big Ten preseason player of the year, missed that game with back spasms. He returned to help deliver Purdue's first conference victory Sunday, scoring 11 of his 16 points in the second half of a 65-52 home win over Wisconsin.
The sophomore forward made 4-of-8 3-pointers and added five rebounds in 28 minutes.
Posted: 1/15/09 2:00PM ET