Chicago Bulls (21-22, 7-15 road) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (24-20, 12-9)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 105.9 (21st), Bulls – 101.6 (28th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.5 (5th), Bulls – 104.5 (9th)
Pace: Thunder – 92.1 (18th), Bulls – 92.9 (14th)
View from the enemy: By The Horns
Now starts a four-game homestand. And it’s not an easy one. Chicago, Denver, Golden State and Atlanta all stop by the Ford Center (and hopefully stay at the Skirvin amirite?) in the next week. And while coming home 2-2 from last week’s road trip was acceptable, a 2-2 stretch at home would be slightly disappointing. But with a loss tonight against Chicago, I think we might have to be hoping for 2-2. So this game is definitely important.
Let’s just get this out there: Last time Oklahoma City played Chicago, the Bulls were hot and riding a four-game win streak. The Thunder were coming off a tough loss. This time, the Bulls are coming in with three straight wins and OKC is coming off a tough one-point loss in Cleveland. Not sayin’, just sayin’. But the Bulls are definitely hot. They’re within a game of .500 and those three straight wins were all on the road against Phoenix, Houston and San Antonio. That’s pretty darn impressive. And enough reason to make Thunder fans worry about this one.
Chicago coming in: As mentioned, the Bulls are winners of three straight and have won 7 of 10. After dropping to 10-17 in late December, the Bulls have gone 11-5, with some really good wins. Vinny Del Negro was on the hottest of hot seats, but Chicago has certainly turned it around.
Again, here we go with Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose. It promises to be fun. In Rose’s last six, he’s averaging 26.3 ppg. And in the first meeting, Rose started hot scoring 11 first quarter points, but was locked down henceforth. While Westbrook had 29 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the meeting. So here we go with Round 2 and with Russ struggling a bit, this would be a good time to turn it on again.
Kirk Hinrich hit a lot of open jumpers in the last game and I’m sure Thabowill play him tight. But I’m also sure Thabo will guard Rose in some circumstances too. I mean, I hopeThabo guards Rose. Keeping Joakim Noah off the glass is important again and after a poor first half, the Thunder did a solid job of it last time, especially in the fourth quarter. Taj Gibsonis a good rebounder as well so like always, it’ll be key for Jeff Green, Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka to at least hold their head above water. I’m not even including Nenad Krstic here because I honestly don’t expect it.
Luol Deng will attempt to guard Kevin Durant and while KD had “just” 25 last time, he did it on only 14 shots. Deng isn’t a great defender but he is long and will have a hand near every Durant jumper. The Thunder bench gives OKC an advantage as Chicago has John Salmons, Brad Miller and Tyrus Thomas coming off the pine. That’s a whole lot of inconsistency. It’s key for the OKC second unit to give solid production.
In revenge games (where the Thunder has beat a team already) OKC is 4-6. That’s not bad especially considering the Thunder has beat some pretty good teams (it’s hard to beat Orlando, San Antonio and Memphis twice you know). In the last meeting, the Thunder locked down on Chicago, holding the Bulls to just 33 points in the second half. The Bulls aren’t a great offensive team and the defensive end is where the Thunder have the advantage and will have to win the game. This one is important for sure. I’m knocking on every piece of wood within striking distance, but the Thunder hasn’t lost three straight in over a month. Time to cut the streak right here.
Tip at 7:00 CST. Go Skirvin Ghosts.