Due to injuries, it's rare to see Westbrook & Rose face off, but that will be the case Thursday night in Chicago as the Thunder make their only visit of the season. Let's get our NBA pick in.
OKC On First Losing Streak
The Thunder started 3-0, including a very impressive home win over San Antonio on opening night, but they have dropped back-to-back since. OKC lost in Houston 110-105 on Monday night. Normally no shame in that, but it was Houston's first win after three blowout losses this season.
Then on Wednesday, the Thunder lost 103-98 at home to Toronto. Oklahoma City blew an eight-point lead with six minutes to play and scored fewer than 100 points for the first time. Normally, the home team has an advantage in free throws attempted but Oklahoma City had only 14 attempts (making 12) while Toronto had a whopping 39 (making 32). The Thunder were also outrebounded and committed 19 turnovers. Kevin Durant had 27 points and Russell Westbrook 22 points and 16 assists (most in NBA this year), but they didn't get much help. Durant also only took two shots in the fourth quarter, and Westbrook had just one assist in the quarter. That new Billy Donovan offense stagnated late in the game.
Donovan has said he has no plans to rest Durant in the second of a back-to-back so let's assume he's in there for this one. The Thunder are 2-3 against the spread on NBA odds this season and 2-3 'over/under.'
Bulls Not In Sync Yet
Chicago is still adjusting from its defense-first style under former coach Tom Thibodeau to a more offensive scheme under first-year coach Fred Hoiberg. Generally, the defense had been better than the offense through the first four games.
But on Tuesday night, the Bulls played one of their worst defensive games in years in a 130-105 loss at previously winless (and offensively challenged) Charlotte. The Hornets shot 51.6 percent overall, 60.9 percent from 3-point range and scored at least 30 in every quarter. Charlotte led by as many as 27 by the second quarter. It had 100 through three quarters, the most points allowed by Chicago through three in 25 years.
Only Jimmy Butler really showed up for the Bulls with 26 points. He was clearly frustrated after, to the point of perhaps questioning Hoiberg's reliance on offense: "We ain't been playing no defense," Butler said. "Other teams have just been missing shots to tell you the truth, to be honest. [Shoot] we score enough points, that's not the problem. But when you don't stop nobody, they put up 130 or whatever they did, we got to nip that in the bud now because that's not winning basketball."
Meanwhile, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, who used to be the two most important Bulls, both continued to struggle. Rose, to be fair, is still having double vision issues as he continues to recover from a fractured left orbital bone. But he isn't being aggressive at all as he has scored in single digits in three straight games for the first time in his career. Rose also has attempted only two free throws over the past three.
Noah is now coming off the bench as Hoiberg is starting Nikola Mirotic. Noah is averaging just 2.0 points and 6.4 rebounds in 18.8 minutes. This game could have special meaning to Noah, who has called Oklahoma City's Donovan the "best coach I have ever had." Noah won back-to-back national titles under Donovan at Florida and now faces his former coach for the first time ever.
The Bulls are 1-4 ATS on NBA picks and 2-3 O/U.
The teams split, each winning at home -- Durant missed both of them. Chicago hosted Oklahoma City on March 5 and won 108-105. Bulls reserve E'Twaun Moore hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left. The Thunder still had plenty of time for an inbounds play on Chicago's half of the court, but Westbrook stepped out of bounds after taking the inbounds pass. Mirotic led the Bulls with 26 points, while Pau Gasol had 21 points and 12 rebounds. Rose missed that game. Westbrook had 43 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, ending what had been a streak of four straight triple-doubles. Ten days later in OKC, the Thunder won 109-100. No Rose there, either. Mirotic had 27 points. Westbrook had 36 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.
This line actually opened with the Thunder as 2-point favorites before their loss to Toronto. Now I like OKC even more here -- as long as Durant plays. Go 'over' the total. OKC is 9-4 ATS in its past 13 in the second of a back-to-back. Chicago is 1-4 ATS in its past five vs. the West. The 'over' is 12-4 in the Thunder's past 16 on the road. The 'over' is 4-0 in the Bulls' past four against the West.
NBA Picks: Thunder +1 & Over 208 at TheGreek
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