The Bulls and the Oklahoma City Thunder close the book on the 2020-21 preseason this evening at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Fans can catch all the action live on TV and radio (NBC Sports Chicago / 670 The Score) starting at 7:00 PM.
Tonight's contest is a rematch from Wednesday, where Chicago rolled over the Thunder, 124-103. The Bulls' dynamic duo of Zach LaVine and Coby White took turns dominating, with LaVine notching 20 of his 24 points in the opening half, and White torching the twine for 18 of his game-high 27 points in the third quarter, allowing the Bulls to coast for most of the night.
Chicago shot a blistering 52-of-96 (54.2%) from the field, including 11-of-33 (33.3%) from downtown, while OKC could connect on only 38.1% from the field. The Bulls also out-rebounded the Thunder, 61-46, and forced 16 turnovers, allowing them to outscore OKC 15-3 in transition, and 64-42 down in the paint.
Bulls rookie Patrick Williams also produced another impressive game, posting 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field, while also snaring 7 rebounds in just a little under 27 minutes of work. Williams also found his way into the starting lineup for the first time since high school. Head Coach Billy Donovan decided to start his top rookie and bring veteran Otto Porter Jr. off the pine. The move didn't seem to affect Porter Jr. all that much, as the former Georgetown Hoya also enjoyed a nice night, producing 8 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists in 22 minutes.
Third-year man Chandler Hutchison also deserves praise for the way he played. The former Boise State Bronco notched 11 points, shooting 5-of-7 from the field, to go along with 7 boards and 2 blocked shots.
What also makes this victory all the sweeter is that for the second game in a row Chicago was forced to play shorthanded, as six players were left home due to either injury or NBA COVID-19 safety protocols. Of the six, four are likely to end up key rotational players during the regular season. The six that didn't make the trip and will not play again tonight are Thaddeus Young (Left Lower Leg Infection), Denzel Valentine (Left Hamstring Strain), Garrett Temple (Self Isolation), Tomas Satoransky (NWT), and two-way players Adam Mokoka (NWT) and Devin Dotson (NWT).
As for the Thunder, they opened their preseason with a convincing 121-108 victory over the Spurs in San Antonio last Saturday night. OKC slipped into a comfortable rhythm right away, establishing a speedy tempo from the jump. The fast pace and plenty of unselfish ball movement translated to a lethal 17-of-31 clip from behind the arc. However, unlike San Antonio, Chicago didn't allow OKC much breathing room at the bend nor open driving lanes to the hoop. In order for the Bulls to come out on top again this evening they'll need to generate the same focused and determined attack they employed Wednesday.
Defensively, Chicago will have to continue to pay close attention to the 3-point arc, relentlessly running shooters off the line, while also denying OKC's guards, and in particular, playmaker Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, driving lanes into the paint, to deny opportunities to post easy scores at the rim.
Another intensive effort on the glass by Chicago will also go a long way to determining if they'll win tonight.
Offensively, the Bulls must continue to freely share the ball from player-to-player, as well as doggedly attack the basket at every opportunity. Chicago is at its best when they're aggressive in every phase of the game.
Attention to detail, and another gritty effort at both ends of the floor from the Bulls should produce another successful outcome.