Bulls-Thunder Preview

The Oklahoma City Thunder have thoroughly dominated the Chicago

Bulls over the last two seasons. Given the way both are playing

heading into Thursday night’s meeting in Oklahoma City, that trend

appears likely to continue.

The Thunder (20-4) will be trying to extend the league’s longest

active winning streak to eight games. They’re averaging 110.3

points while shooting 50.1 percent from the floor during their

current run.

Oklahoma City is also the only remaining undefeated team at

home, becoming the first club to start a season 12-0 at home since

Cleveland in 2008.

Kevin Durant – who is shooting 54.2 percent from 3-point range

and 56.7 percent overall during the winning streak – scored 30 in

Tuesday’s 105-93 win at Denver, his league-leading 12th 30-plus

point performance.

“It’s a good win,” Durant said after knocking off a team that

had won 10 of 13. “We came here and beat a team that plays well at

home and has been playing really well since the last time we played

them. Any win on the road is tough, so we’ll take it.”

Russell Westbrook also flirted with a triple-double, finishing

with 21 points, a season-high 13 rebounds and eight assists. He’s

averaging 9.8 assists and 9.2 rebounds over the last six contests,

giving Oklahoma City more jump in starting fast-break

opportunities.

The Thunder scored 16 points in transition Tuesday and are

averaging 19.0 over the last seven games.

“It gives us an opportunity push in the break,” said Westbrook,

whose team is 6-1 when he gets at least eight assists. “It gets us

into our sets a lot quicker, it gives us an opportunity to play

with a better pace, it gives me a better rhythm and it’s good for

our team.”

Oklahoma City has won three straight against Chicago by an

average margin of 16.7 points, including a 102-72 home victory on

Feb. 24. Durant was just 6 of 19 from the field for 19 points, but

the Bulls’ shooting percentage of 29.1 was their worst in more than

nine years.

Chicago is averaging 80.3 points while shooting 34.5 percent in

its last three losses to the Thunder. Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer

are a combined 15 of 48 for 41 points during that stretch.

The Bulls (9-15) haven’t been much better on offense while

losing six of seven, averaging 81.6 points on 37.8 percent

shooting. Their offense stalled late in the third quarter of

Wednesday’s 109-94 loss at Houston, where a 15-1 run by the Rockets

that period put the game out of reach.

Point guard Kirk Hinrich missed his third straight game due to

back stiffness, but he’s expected to travel with the team for

Thursday’s contest.

“We’re losing, so mentally it’s tough,” Noah said. “When you

lose, it’s not fun but we have to keep battling. The games keep

coming and nobody feels sorry for us and we can’t feel sorry for

ourselves.”