OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (2-2)
at CHICAGO BULLS (3-1)
Tip-off: Thursday, 8:05 p.m. ET
Line: Oklahoma City -2, Total: 191.5
Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder are looking for two wins in a row as they go into Chicago to face Tom Thibodeau’s 3-1 Bulls.
The Bulls have played very well to start the season and that is without their superstar Derrick Rose who is out indefinitely recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in 2011-2012. They completely buy into a team system and play tough defense (88.8 PPG, 41% FG allowed). On Thursday, however, they face an Oklahoma City team with tons of offensive weapons that has made 48.4% of its shots in the past three games.
Who will win this West versus East showdown? For the answer, connect to NBA Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. Last year, StatFox Dave won 62% ATS Best Bets in the regular season and was 5-0 ATS in the NBA Finals. Entering Thursday, StatFox Brian is 54% ATS Best Bets (7-6-1). As far as NBA Totals are concerned, two of the experts continue to profit, as StatFox Scott is 10-3 (77%) on Totals for the season and StatFox Brian is 11-5 (69%), going 9-3 on Totals since Friday.
The Thunder won their last game against the Raptors by 20 points on Tuesday, winning the rebounding margin by nine and holding Toronto to 35.7% FG. Newcomer Kevin Martin has stepped in nicely to fill in James Harden’s sixth-man role, averaging 19.3 PPG on 51% shooting and 13-of-21 threes (62%). Kevin Durant has been playing a more balanced brand of basketball this year, averaging 5.8 APG and 12.3 RPG to go along with his 20.8 PPG. He’s helping his team in more ways than he used to and is turning into a better basketball player doing it. Westbrook is also scoring 20.8 PPG, but is shooting just 38.7% FG. And after having more turnovers than assists in the season opener, Westbrook has 23 assists and just five turnovers in his past three games.
In Rose’s absence, the Bulls have looked good with five players averaging more than 12 points per game, but they’ll need one player to step up and score against Scott Brooks’ team and that player is unknown at this point. Going up against Durant specifically will be Luol Deng for the Bulls, as he's known as one of the premier wing defenders in the league. Deng is also averaging 15.8 PPG and 8.3 RPG early in the year for Chicago. The Bulls will also need contributions from Kirk Hinrich, their starting point guard until Rose comes back, and Rip Hamilton, who has been inconsistent since signing to be the starting shooting guard for the Bulls a season ago. Joakim Noah has been the anchor for the Bulls since Rose left, averaging a team-best 16.0 PPG, 8.8 RPG and 2.5 BPG this season. He brings consistent energy and will certainly have to do so against the Thunder if the Bulls are going to have any chance to pull it out at home.