|2012-2013 NBA Season|
The Oklahoma City Thunder (40-15)
|February 24th, 2013|
|Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma|
|8:30 PM CST|
|Entertainment Sports Programming Network, Fox Sports Network Oklahoma|
|WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1), WMVP ESPN 1000|
|Enemy Blogs: Blog a Bull, By the Horns|
|Previous Meetings: Nov 8th (Thunder Lead Season Series 1-0)|
|Injury Report: Derrick Rose (Out), Kirk Hinrich (Out)|
|Nate Robinson||PG||Russell Westbrook|
|Rip Hamilton||SG||Thabo Sefolosha|
|Luol Deng||SF||Kevin Durant|
|Carlos Boozer||PF||Serge Ibaka|
|Joakim Noah||C||Kendrick Perkins|
Tonight will be a bit of a reunion for Thunder fans. Nate Robinson, who sat on the bench during the Thunder's 2010-2011 campaign, will be the starting point guard for the Bulls. This comes with the news that Kirk Hinrich will be out with an elbow injury. Even though Nate Robinson isn't a true point guard, their weakness at the position hasn't really affected them in terms of distribution. The Bulls are a really good overall passing team, and any loss as a result of turnovers is on all of them, not just one guy. This allows them to be successful with a scoring guard like Derrick Rose.
That being said, I'm hoping that Russell Westbrook can take advantage of his matchup with Nate Robinson. Westbrook has undoubtedly seen Robinson a lot in practice, and it's a huge mismatch in terms of size. Westbrook is one of the leagues biggest and strongest point guards, while Nate Robinson is the NBA's shortest player. Robinson can be effective in terms of steals, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him create turnover problems for Westbrook. But if Westbrook can just take Nate Rob down to the post, it shouldn't be a problem.
The second part of that reunion tonight will be the sighting of Daequan Cook, who signed with the Bulls this January. After going to Houston via the Harden trade, he was cut to make room on their roster. The Bulls promptly signed him, in desperate need of some three point shooting. Cook has been somewhat disappointing and on the fringe of the rotation thus far, so it seems pointless to talk about him. But I do have a point: There's a reason they brought on Cook. Tonight, outside of Nate Robinson and Marco Bellinelli, the Bulls really have no options from three. They're second to last in both threes made and threes attempted.
For the Thunder, this is a huge break. One of their main weaknesses is perimeter shot defense, and that was the main reason they lost to the Rockets last Wednesday. If the Bulls can't make the Thunder pay from three point land, then it's going to be awful hard for them to win. Granted, they have some excellent post players, and the Bulls main strength is an ability to control that area in terms of boards and defense. But the Thunder have some solid post players of their own, and they were able to keep the reliable Nikola Pekovic off of the scoreboard while playing the Wolves this Friday.
In the last matchup between these two teams, the game went right down to the wire. The Thunder were able to get great mid-range production out of Serge Ibaka while Carlos Boozer stared at him in the paint. The stars also had decent nights. But the Bulls were really only able to come back into the game through exploiting the defense of Kevin Martin late in the game. The Thunder have done a better job of covering for him since then, so I doubt the Bulls will be able to ride that train again.
It will be nice to see Ronnie Brewer possibly debut against his old team tonight. Actually, he's out until Wednesday. Still, he's the type of guy who would come in handy against an opponent that has a unstoppable scorer or great three point shooting ability, which isn't the Bulls. All in all, the game rests in the hands of Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka. If they can control the post, it'll be smooth sailing. If they can't, then get ready for a bumpy ride.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 99, Chicago Bulls 92.
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