Chicago Bulls at Oklahoma City Thunder
Time: 1:30 PM CT (ABC)
Spread: OKC -9
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The Chicago Bulls just have not been the same formidable team under first-year coach Fred Holberg, but at 15-11 it can attempt to gain some much needed momentum on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
OKC is 20-9 and will host the Bulls in the second of a five-game slate Christmas Day on ABC.
NBA oddsmakers are favoring the Thunder by 9-points in the game.
The Bulls come in riding a three-game losing streak that has seen the team fall to the Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. The Bulls lost the games by an average of 7.3 points per game, and most recently fell to Brooklyn 105-102. Jimmy Butler was good once again with 24 points on 11 of 20 shooting, but his backcourt mate Derrick Rose struggled as he has all season long. Rose hit just 3 of 11 from the field while posting the worst plus/minus of any Bull starter at -9.
Rose is shooting just 37.2 percent from the field this year and over his last five he has been good for 40.3 percent. In the Bulls 147-144 loss to the Detroit Pistons on Dec 18, Rose attempted 34 field goals and connected on 14, scoring 34 points and dishing eight assists in one of his better performances of the season. He is still trying to reinvent himself, but it has not helped that he has shot the three ball so abysmally.
Rose is hitting just 22.4 percent from behind the arc this season, and enigmatically his free throw shooting has fallen off to just 70.5 percent on 2.5 attempts per game. The Bulls need Rose to get to the line more and to connect, but to be taken more seriously on his drives he has to hit his mid-range jumper.
There are so many things to fix in Rose’s game, and the fact he has shot the ball 6 of 21 over his last two does not bode well for it changing. What is more is that the Thunder have a strong defending backcourt and will be able to put Andre Roberson on him who is known to be a defensive stopper.
The Thunder are riding a three-game win streak coming into the game and the team now sits seven full games ahead of second place Utah in the Northwest Division standings. The Thunder have the league’s highest scoring duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook who combine to average 51.9 points per game this season.
Durant leads the Thunder at 26.6 points per game, and the four-time NBA scoring champ is also averaging 7.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.31 steals/blocks per game. Westbrook led the NBA in scoring last season with Durant out much of the year and the dynamo guard is posting 25.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 9.3 assists and 2.68 steals/blocks per game while posting a team-high PER of 30.5.
The Thunder’s No. 4 and No. 5 scorers behind Serge Ibaka are both reserves, Enes Kanter and Dion Waiters. Kanter came to OKC from the Jazz last season and while he is not billed as a top defender the Turkish big man is scoring 11 points and grabbing eight rebonds per game. Waiters came from Cleveland and has become the Thunder’s best scoring guard off the bench with averages of 10.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
Waiters is hitting 33.3 percent from behind the arc, and is one of four Thunder players averaging over a three per game. Sharpshooter Anthony Morrow is another, who averages 5.4 points per game but hits 39.7 percent from three.
The Thunders’ only two over the 40 percent mark are Kevin Durant (42.6 percent) and Serge Ibaka (40 percent). Ibaka is shooting 49.7 percent from the floor but the 4-man’s best value comes in his 2.28 blocks per game. Ibaka and center Steven Adams are the Thunders’ best two interior defenders and both will come up big in stopping both Rose and Jimmy Butler at the rim.
The Bulls will need both attacking early and often to have much of a chance in this, but given how well the Thunder have been playing and the fact that OKC is at home, there is scarcely a chance to think the Bulls can fight their ways into this one.