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Thunder vs. Bulls Preview: Thunder Try to Keep the Lights Dim for Chicago’s Dark Season

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The Bulls will need a little desperation to match the Thunder in Oklahoma City.

W. Bennett Berry

Where They At: Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder have won 9 of 10, finally getting above .500 on the road in LA with a maybe-shouldn’t-have-counted nail biter over the Clippers and what felt like an exhibition game in the same building against the Lakers on Wednesday. While running their season margin over the Lakers up to +75, Kevin Durant was yucking it up with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers commentators were cautioning viewers to "hide the women and children". Even Russell Westbrook cracked a smile after a lob to Andre Roberson.

Aside from contributing to the Lakers’ existential spiral that is their season (the announcers wondering what Byron Scott is doing, while he blankly stared on, made me lol), the Thunder reminded us why they’re great and why they’re probably the same team we’ve known for years. This team doesn’t win with basketball IQ and precision the way the sexy Spurs or Warriors are doing. They pummel their opponents, overwhelming them with size, aggressiveness, and try-and-stop-me individual scoring.

Despite all of the recent winning, I’m back on rotation/Anthony Morrow watch just two games after calling it off. Morrow has played 24 of his last 44 minutes in fourth quarter blowouts, and he’s played less than his career average (23.3 MPG) in 25 of the 28 games he’s been available. Kyle Singler, meanwhile, played 10 minutes to Morrow’s 5 against the Clippers. Billy Donavan is loosening Singler’s leash while tightening Morrow’s.

Where They At: Chicago Bulls

Things are not going well in Chicago. The Bulls are riding their second three-game losing streak of the season, having just lost to the lowly Nets. They’ve fallen to 6th in the Eastern Conference standings, with a smaller point differential than any other winning team in the conference. Some of their issues:

  • Joakim Noah is out multiple weeks with a shoulder injury.
  • There is some sort of friction with the players and coach, if you read into Jimmy Butler’s public comments about Fred Hoiberg’s lack of fire.
  • Derrick Rose is having his worst year as a pro (13.5 points per night on a miserable .390 effective field goal percentage).
  • Trade rumors are flying.
  • The team still plays decent defense, but the body rejected Hoiberg’s offensive implant.

Not good.

The Matchup

The Bulls should be desperate for a win. Dropping a fourth consecutive loss on national TV, on Christmas—the casual NBA fan’s chance to catch up with the season—would be even more not good. A desperate team meeting before last game couldn’t save them from that Nets L, though, and they’ve struggled on the road. I don’t think they’ll stop the Thunder from surging further in Oklahoma City.

Prediction: Thunder 108 Bulls 101

2015-16 NBA Season Game #30
@
15-11
(Lost 3)

20-9
(Won 3)
December 25th, 2015
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City
1:30 PM Central Standard Time
TV: ABC
Injury Report: Jaokim Noah (Out), Mike Dunleavy (Out)
This Season's Matchups: Nov. 25 (L 98-104)
Probable Starters
Derrick Rose PG Russell Westbrook
Jimmy Butler SG Andre Roberson
Nikola Mirotic SF Kevin Durant
Taj Gibson PF Serge Ibaka
Pau Gasol C Steven Adams