Tip-Off: 8:30 PM CST
Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena (Oklahoma City, OK)
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
Player to Watch
F Jimmy Butler was not his typical self in the Bulls’ first meeting with the Thunder as he was dealing with illness, and he did not even play in the 4th quarter of that game. He managed to score only 1 point shooting 0/6 from the field, and while Andre Roberson is a proficient defender against even the league’s best scorers, it was clear that Butler was under the weather. So far this season Butler is averaging a career-high 24.5 points (12th in the NBA) on 45.3% shooting from the field, 35.0% from three, and 87.0% from the free-throw line. He is also pulling down 6.6 rebounds, while handing 4.7 assists, and stealing the ball 1.8 times per game. Expect Butler to come out locked in and ready to go tonight.
Keys to the Game
- Take (and Make) Good Shots: Oklahoma City has really struggled to shoot the ball efficiently in its last two games, both losses. In both games combined, they have managed to make just 36.2% of their shots from the floor, including an atrocious 24.0% from beyond the arc. This makes up the worst consecutive shooting nights of the season for the Thunder since Victor Oladipo went out with a sprained right wrist. It makes sense that Oklahoma City would struggle in their first two games since Enes Kanter’s injury, but the Thunder have to figure out a solution sooner rather than later.
- Force the Bulls Into Bad Shots: Chicago ranks dead last in the league in three-point shooting. They average only 6.4 makes on 20.4 attempts (31.8%). Alternatively, the Bulls are 1st in rebounding, 1st in second-chance points, and 12th in points in the paint. Oklahoma City struggles to defend down low, but tonight the Thunder needs to clog up the interior and force Chicago to kick the ball out and take low-percentage shots that they usually don’t make.
- Play Smart and Run Fast: The Thunder has had AT LEAST 16 turnovers in 8 of the last 10 games, including 20 last night against the Spurs. Thankfully, Chicago ranks 23rd in the NBA in forced turnovers with 13.2 per game, and Oklahoma City only turned it over 12 times in the first matchup against the Bulls. Oklahoma City ranks 3rd in the league with 17.4 fast break points per game, and Chicago is only 19th in the NBA allowing 13.6 points in transition per contest. The Thunder needs to take care of the ball, make smart passes, and if possible, get out and run in transition.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.