While fans across the country are surely looking forward to
seeing how the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder
stack up to the NBA-leading Chicago Bulls, this weekend’s matchup
may not tell the whole story with the league’s reigning MVP out of
The Bulls could have a hard time achieving their longest road
winning streak in more than 16 years Sunday against the surging
Thunder, as Derrick Rose is expected to miss his 10th straight
Chicago (42-11) improved to 17-3 over its last 20 games and 14-5
without Rose in the lineup by beating Detroit 83-71 at home Friday.
Rose has missed nearly three weeks with a strained right groin and
wants to make sure he’s fully healed before returning – even with
this much-anticipated showdown looming.
“All I can do is just stay positive (and) try to get my
teammates up and just try to (get) well,” said Rose, averaging a
team-high 22.8 points. “It’s hard, but at the same time, I’m happy
that they’re playing great and we’re winning games. Of course I
wanna be out there, I hate being injured, but right now we’re in a
While Chicago has certainly held its own without Rose, he could
be missed in this one. Rose has averaged 26.3 points in three
career visits to Oklahoma City (39-12), leading the Bulls to two
Chicago has won 12 of its last 13 road games overall, including
seven in a row by an average of 13.4 points. The Bulls haven’t won
eight straight in opposing arenas since Michael Jordan led them on
a nine-game run Jan. 4-Feb. 2, 1996. Another road victory could be
hard to come by against the Thunder, who own the league’s
second-best home record at 22-4.
After going a lackluster 5-5 from March 3-20, Oklahoma City has
outscored opponents by an average of 14.2 points during a five-game
“We’re on a nice streak right now, we’re playing good
basketball,” coach Scott Brooks said. “But we can’t rest and we
can’t feel good about ourselves because that’s when you get hit
pretty hard and then you get frustrated.”
Two nights after beating Portland 109-95, the Thunder concluded
a two-game road trip Thursday with a 102-93 victory over the Los
Angeles Lakers. Russell Westbrook scored 36 points while Kevin
Durant added 21 and 11 rebounds for Oklahoma City, which limited
the Lakers to 41.7 percent shooting from the field.
“We got two tough road wins – one in Portland and one here. Now
we get to go back home for two big games (against Chicago and
Memphis), so it’s great,” said Westbrook, averaging 31.5 points
over his last four contests.
Though the Thunder won’t have to worry about slowing down Rose,
they know putting points on the board against Chicago won’t be
easy. The Bulls, whose average of 88.5 points allowed ranks second
in the league, have surrendered just 82.6 per game over their last
“They are one of the hardest playing teams in basketball on both
ends of the floor, you will see that (Sunday),” Brooks said.
“Defensively, they get after you, they touch you, they hold you,
they make you work for every point … that’s why they win, that’s
why they’re in every game.”
Richard Hamilton is listed as a game-time decision for Chicago
after missing the last 13 contests with a sprained right shoulder.
Hamilton has averaged 11.3 points – his fewest since averaging 9.0
as a rookie for Washington in 1999-2000 – while appearing in just
16 games due to a slew of injuries.
Sunday marks the only regular-season meeting between the Bulls
and Thunder, who have split the last six matchups in the