Tip-Off: 7 PM CST
Location: United Center (Chicago, IL)
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
Player to Watch
G Jimmy Butler has gradually risen to stardom over the last few years, and he is having his best season yet in Chicago. The 6th-year veteran out of Marquette is averaging 25.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.8 steals. Butler has been a lockdown defender for quite some time now, but just over the last few years has he evolved as an elite scorer. The Chicago offense depends largely upon Butler’s production, so shutting him down needs to be defensive priority number one for the Thunder.
Keys to the Game
- Force Outside Shots: Chicago ranks dead last in the league in three-point shooting. They average only 6.4 makes on 20.4 attempts (31.5%). Alternatively, the Bulls are 1st in rebounding, 1st in second-chance points, and 11th in points in the paint. Oklahoma City needs to clog up the paint on defense and force Chicago to kick the ball out and take low-percentage shots that they usually don’t make.
- Hands-Off Defense: The Bulls are 5th in the NBA in free throw shooting percentage, making an impressive 80.8% of their attempts. Not only do they shoot a high percentage, they shoot a high volume at 24.4 attempts per game. Free throw shooting is an area in which the Thunder struggles, especially when opponents get to the line with ease. Just five days ago, the Thunder lost in Charlotte in large part because the Hornets got to the charity stripe 49 times to the Thunder’s 23. Oklahoma City can play intense defense, but the Thunder needs to avoid any unnecessary fouls.
- Take Good Shots: Chicago has a solid defense which allows only 101.2 points per game (6th in the NBA), so Oklahoma City needs to take care of the basketball and shoot high-percentage shots. Russell Westbrook has been especially efficient from three the last couple of games, and while that has been a key contribution, the team cannot expect that out of him every night. The Bulls do a good job at contesting shots from beyond the arc, so the Thunder need to shoot threes when they have good looks and kick it inside when possible.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.