Chicago Bulls (41-11, 21-6 road) vs. OKC Thunder (39-12, 22-4 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 110.5 (1st), Bulls– 108.7 (7th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.4 (12th), Bulls – 99.0 (2nd)
Pace: Thunder – 93.1 (5th), Bulls – 89.3 (27th)
View from the enemy: By The Horns
The Thunder are playing the top team (record wise) in basketball and yet it feels sort of like a no-win situation. Lose, and you just dropped a home game to a team without its best player. Win, and you just took a home game against a team without its best player. The Bulls are still a very solid club without Derrick Rose, but let’s face it, it’s not the same. If Rose were playing this game would have all the same hype and excitement that the Heat game had. Now, it’s almost like it’s just another home game against a good team.
Again, not to say the Bulls aren’t capable without Rose. They’ve won a lot more than they’ve lost sans their MVP and have seen different guys step up in different situations. John Lucas III came up big against the Heat. Luol Deng has turned into an All-Star. Taj Gibson and Omer Asik form maybe the best interior defensive duo in the league. The Bulls keep ticking because of depth, a great and coach and an identity. The Thunder might be playing a wounder team without its best player, but that doesn’t mean anything is coming easy.
Chicago coming in: The Bulls played Friday winning in Detroit.
Three Big Things
1. Asik and Gibson. I think those two are the key to the game. They can seal off the paint as well as anyone and they defend pick-and-roll basketball exceptionally well. The Thunder like to penetrate and find pockets in the lane but Asik and Gibson are terrific making things difficult to navigate in the paint. Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah are better and a little more well-rounded, but Tom Thibodeau likes to play Asik and Gibson deep into games for a reason.
2.Rebounding. The Bulls win a lot of games by a simple formula: defend the crap out of you and rebound the crap out of you. They’re not a great offensive team, especially without Derrick Rose, but they can own the offensive glass piling up second chance opportunities. Keep the number under 15, and the Thunder should win the game. But that’s a whole lot easier said than done.
3. Who’s stepping up? Someone has to for the Bulls without Rose. Richard Hamilton is a gametime decision, so maybe him. Or Kyle Korver. Or Deng, C.J. Watson or Lucas. Maybe Boozer or Noah. Who knows who it is, but the Bulls rely on someone playing big in Rose’s place.
Tip at 12:00 CT. Go Wake Up.