Preseason Game Recap: Thunder 103, Bulls 124

On a brand-new floor inside of a familiar Chesapeake Energy Arena, the Thunder had another opportunity to continue its progression as a team in its second exhibition game of the season. This time, the test came in the form of Chicago and its high-powered backcourt of Zach Lavine and Coby White led by former Thunder head coach Billy Donovan.

Unlike its first preseason game in San Antonio, the Thunder struggled to find consistency from behind the arc throughout the contest. Despite surges throughout the game to cut the lead to single digits on multiple occasions, Chicago was able to maintain a steady lead and ultimately garner a 124-103 victory. For Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault, it was a good opportunity to see his players fight and battle to stay in the game, even when the ball wasn’t falling in their direction.

“The ball didn't go in the way it did against San Antonio and that kind of tested our mettle a little bit and I thought eventually we got that corrected,” said Daigneault. “We showed some fight, especially in the second half and we got a little feisty in the second quarter as well but it’s just a good lesson that when it doesn't start off your way you’ve got to course correct quickly.”

Wednesday’s game also served as the first chance for players like Al Horford, Lu Dort, Justin Jackson and Darius Bazley to play in a game setting for the first time this season after sitting out of the Thunder’s first preseason game in San Antonio. Getting on the floor not only allowed them the opportunity to put their training camp work to the test, but also to get re-acclimated to the conditioning that only comes with game minutes. This was something that Coach Daigneault applauded Bazley for in his first game of the season.

“I thought he looked really good physically. I thought his wind was good,” said Daigneault. “We played those guys in long stretches intentionally and I thought he handled that very well.”

Two-way player Moses Brown, who only played three minutes in the Thunder’s first preseason game, made the most of his 10 minutes of game time by cashing in 12 points on 5-of-6 from the field. In his second season in the NBA, the 7-foot-2 center focused his attention on sticking to the team’s identity and bringing high energy.

“Really just trying to do all the right things… run the offense the right way, set good screens and defend the rim,” said Brown. “Just doing my job out there on the floor and everything that comes with that… finishing around the basket, offensive rebounds, tip-ins, stuff like that. I think my biggest emphasis is being active and having a high motor. That’s really it.”

Although the team’s first game in Chesapeake Energy Arena was without the usual roar of thousands of fans due to COVID-19 precautions, there was still a significant level of excitement among the group to be back within the familiar hallways of its home arena.

“It was good to see some familiar faces with the building workers,” said Thunder forward Isaiah Roby who finished with 9 points and 6 rebounds. “It was good to see them and catch up a little bit and see how they're doing. We're looking forward to it getting the fans back in the seats, but it's always going to be back in your home gym.”

“It felt really good. It was fun to be playing again,” said Bazley. “It’s crazy to think we haven’t been in this building since that Utah game in March. It was good to see all of these familiar faces and get back out on the court.”

“We’re certainly grateful to be playing. There’s a spirit of gratitude with our team,” said Daigneault. “We’re not going to take the opportunity to play for granted, especially with what’s going on in the world.”

The Thunder will have a day to look over the film on Thursday before facing Chicago again on Friday in the team’s third and final preseason matchup of the year. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. CT and will air on FOX Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network.