OKC vs. CHI Game Preview – Clash of Defensive Stalwarts

When two of the league’s best defenses clash tonight, there will be a battle for every inch on the floor.

The Thunder hosts the Chicago Bulls at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Thursday, in a matchup that pits two defenses that allow opponents to shoot under 43 percent from the field every night. With length, athleticism and tenacity, both squads defend for the entirety of the 24 second shot clock and more times than not, come away with a defensive stop.

“It’s a tough physical matchup between two physical teams,” forward Kevin Durant said. “It always plays tough when we’re up against these guys. We just have to come out with a focused defensive mindset. No matter who they have on the court, they’re going to be the same team.”

The Thunder’s stout defense also makes 8.3 steals and blocks 6.4 shots per game, altering possessions and creating run-outs for the Thunder’s offense. Against the Bulls, it will be critical for Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club to get out into the open floor before Chicago’s defense gets set in the half court. Currently in the top three in fast break points per game, the Thunder lives by those transition opportunities, which it must take advantage of tonight.

“We always want to get out and try to get easy points in transition but against this team it is tough because they play such solid defense and they take care of the ball,” Durant said.

Leading the charge for the Thunder during its seven-game winning streak has been Kevin Durant, who is averaging 29.4 points per game while shooting 54.7 percent from the field and 51.4 percent from the three-point line in the month of December. His efficiency and effectiveness has been off the charts, but he is also finding ways to get his teammates involved and impact the game in other ways- by averaging 8.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game this year.

“I always just try to focus on what I could do better,” Durant said. “My teammates put me in great positions to be successful and our coach does the same thing. It’s on me to finish. I have to come in and work on my game and figure out where I’m getting those shots from. Hopefully this game I make some. I just have to have that focus and mindset to play defense first and do all the small things.”

In the Notes:

- The Thunder went 2-0 against the Bulls last season, and overall is 6-3 against Chicago.

- Thunder guard Reggie Jackson is averaging 12.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game so far this season in 24.6 minutes per contest.

- Thunder guard Russell Westbrook is averaging 21.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 9.8 assists per contest over the last six games.

Broadcast Info:

7:00 p.m. CT. TV – TNT, Radio – 98.1 FM The Sports Animal, Thunder Radio Network