OKC Thunder host Chicago for first homestand of 2017

Jan 9, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Cameron Payne (22) drives around defended Chicago Bulls guard Jerian Grant (2) during the second half of the game at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 9, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Cameron Payne (22) drives around defended Chicago Bulls guard Jerian Grant (2) during the second half of the game at United Center. Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

The OKC Thunder begin a three-game home stand Wednesday night when the Chicago Bulls come to town.

Today is a new day. And that’s exactly what the OKC Thunder need to be thinking heading into this one.

Oklahoma City will be playing on the back end of a double-header after losing to the San Antonio Spurs last night. The game was a blowout turned close contest turned blowout all in the matter of eight minutes of gametime. It was weird. Here’s our recap if you happened to miss the festivities.

Thunderous Intentions virtuoso Jeremy Lambert summed up tonight’s matchup best: one struggling team who enjoys each other vs. another struggling team who despises each other. The crazy thing is the difference in team chemistry could be the ultimate deciding factor.

The Bulls enter OKC 5-7 in their last 12 games which includes a 15-point loss to the Thunder in Chicago. Andre Roberson’s lockdown defense was too much for an ill Jimmy Butler to handle, Enes Kanter destroyed a weak second unit and Steven Adams dominated the starting frontcourt.

Related Story: Potential rotation changes with Enes Kanter out

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Oklahoma City actually matches up very well with Chicago. But two of those things that helped them win in the first matchup are guaranteed to not happen tonight. So the Thunder are going to have to find another way to win.

Keys to the game

  • Feed Steven Adams. This is the only facet from the first meeting that will be a constant. Butler is going to be hunting for blood; no way does he finish with one point like the first meeting. Kanter is obviously out. But the Bulls still don’t have an answer for the Big Kiwi down low. So give the man the rock Russ.
  • Push the ball in transition. Chicago ranks 25th in possessions per game, averaging almost four less per game than Oklahoma City. Robin Lopez can’t keep up with Steven Adams, Dwayne Wade can’t match Victor Oladipo’s speed for 48 minutes, Russell Westbrook is Russell Westbrook. Sounds like a good game to push the pace.
  • Play hard. Tuesday’s game against San Antonio was a tale of two halves: the first/fourth quarter and the second/third quarter. In the bread quarters, the Thunder played timid. They let the Spurs get to whatever spot on the floor on offense, and telegraphed virtually every pass/play. But in the meat, cheese and veggie quarters Oklahoma City played like the aggressive, young, athletic team Greg Popovich has grown to hate.

Probable starting lineups

Oklahoma City Thunder

Point guard: Russell Westbrook

Shooting guard: Victor Oladipo

Small Forward: Andre Roberson

Power forward: Domantas Sabonis

Center: Steven Adams

It’s going to be the same old same old, nothing interesting here.

Chicago Bulls

Point guard: Jerian Grant

Shooting guard: Dwayne Wade

Small forward: Jimmy Butler

Power forward: Taj Gibson*

Center: Robin Lopez

*Gibson sat out the last game against Philadelphia with an ankle injury. He’s expected back for tonight per CBS Sports.

Game Specifics

What: Thunder vs. Bulls

Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City

When: Wednesday night, 8:30 central time

Why: For the love of the game

How: ESPN

Prediction: I haven’t liked what I’ve seen from Oklahoma City on the court. I also haven’t like what I’ve seen from Chicago off the court. I don’t like the Bulls playing on two days rest while the Thunder are playing on a back-to-back. Still, the Bulls are a good fit for the Thunder because they can’t shoot.

Final Score: Thunder 102 Bulls 99

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