- When: Thursday, 05 March 2015 at 7:00 PM CST
- Where: United Center, Chicago, IL
The Thunder had a whale of a fight last night from an unexpectedly game opponent. The Philadelphia 76ers don’t necessarily strike fear in the hearts of many teams in the league. But last night, the Sixers chose the Thunder to be their “NBA Finals Game 7” opponent. They shot 43% from deep with 15 makes. They took 44 free throws. They grabbed 16 offensive boards and out-rebounded the leading rebounding team by 4. They did all this, and yet, the Thunder still found a way to pull it out. The Thunder lose this game earlier in the season. It helps when a team has a peak performance Russell Westbrook on their roster. But it also helps when the depth of the team allows the back up point guard and shooting guard to be the 2nd and 3rd leading scorers on the team on a night when no starter, sans Westbrook, had double figures. The win last night will go a long way to solidifying the mindset of the Thunder moving forward. Everyone can contribute; everyone is needed.
This is the first meeting of the season between these two clubs. The Thunder swept the season series last year, winning both games by a margin of 12 points.
The Chicago Bulls come into the game with a 38-23 record, good for 2nd in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls are singing the same song they’ve sung that last 2 seasons: injuries to key players, good defensive unit, great effort, likely to fall short in the playoffs. The Bulls have improved offensively this season, scoring 101.2 points per game, good for 11th in the league. But the story of the season is still the injuries. Derrick Rose is out 4-6 weeks with a torn meniscus. Jimmy Butler is out 3-6 weeks with a sprained elbow. Taj Gibson is out 1-2 weeks with a sprained ankle. The team is currently starting a backcourt of Aaron Brooks and Tony Snell. That should tell you a lot about the current state of the Bulls. On the other wing, veteran Mike Dunleavy has returned from his own injury and continues to provide steady play from the 3 spot. Up front, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah form one of the better front court duos in the league. The injuries have sapped a lot of the Bulls’ depth, leaving rookie Nikola Mirotic and Kirk Heinrich as the only dependable players off the bench.
Probable Starting Line-Ups
- PG – Aaron Brooks
- SG – Tony Snell
- SF – Mike Dunleavy Jr.
- PF – Pau Gasol
- C – Joakim Noah
Oklahoma City Thunder
- PG – Russell Westbrook
- SG – Andre Roberson
- SF – Kyle Singler
- PF – Serge Ibaka
- C – Enes Kanter
3 Keys to the Game
1. Guard Play – This game will be won in the backcourt. The Thunder have a decided advantage with Westbrook, Roberson, Dion Waiters, and DJ Augustin. Brooks and Heinrich are veterans, but have their short-comings and Snell is prone to mistakes.
2. Rebounding – This is a match-up of the top two rebounding teams in the league. The 76ers staying the game with the Thunder with their offensive rebounding and 3-point shooting. Give a wounded or bad team more offensive opportunities and they will eventually make you pay. The Thunder’s big men will have their hands full with Gasol and Noah. Then, when Mirotic comes in, one of the big men will have to float out to the perimeter to keep a hand in Mirotic’s face.
3. Welcome back, Craig Sager – After battling cancer, Craig Sager returns back to work tonight. Can’t wait to see what suit the man will be wearing.