The Oklahoma City Thunder integrated two star attractions into their lineup and the team’s power-charged trio is still learning how to play together entering Saturday’s road game against the Chicago Bulls. Oklahoma City will be trying to get back to .500 as reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, and forwards Carmelo Anthony and Paul George further their knowledge of where on the floor each other likes to operate.
Westbrook scored 27 points while Anthony and George had 23 apiece Friday but the Thunder fell 119-116 to the Minnesota Timberwolves. “Yeah, you know, we’re just trying to figure it out,” Westbrook said afterward. “We’re trying to find ways to obviously be efficient, but at the same time making sure guys are in a spot to catch the ball and be effective.” Chicago lost its first three games of the season before using a 62-40 rebounding advantage to fuel Thursday’s 91-86 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. The Bulls were hoping to have point guard Kris Dunn (dislocated left index finger) make his team debut against the Thunder but some soreness lingers and he is considered questionable at best.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN Oklahoma, WGN (Chicago)
ABOUT THE THUNDER (2-3): Westbrook is averaging 22.6 points and has two triple-doubles but isn’t dominating games in the manner he did last season when he was a one-man show. The final Oklahoma City possession Friday was a sign of the difference as Anthony took the tying 3-point shot that missed and left the Thunder dealing with another defeat. “We had to push the ball at that point in time and I think Russell was just surveying the field and trying to find a way maybe to get Carmelo trailing a little bit there,” Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan explained afterward. “I’ll see the film, but I do think that Russell is going to try in those situations to get the best shot, and if he can get Carmelo a shot, I think he’s going to try to generate a shot for him.”
ABOUT THE BULLS (1-3): First-round draft pick Lauri Markkanen is living up to his billing as an impact rookie by averaging 15.8 points and 10 rebounds through his first four NBA games. The 7-footer, who was the seventh overall pick, has scored 13 or more points in each game, has twice collected 12 rebounds and has made 12-of-30 3-point attempts, including a key late one in Thursday’s win over the Hawks. “I am not afraid of big moments,” Markkanen said afterward. “Even though my shot was not falling early on, I still believe every shot I shoot is going in.”
1. The Bulls have won four of the past six meetings.
2. Representatives of F Nikola Mirotic (fractured facial bones, concussion) informed Chicago management that their client doesn’t wish to be a teammate of F Bobby Portis (who punched Mirotic in a recent practice) in the future and will waive his no-trade clause if necessary.
3. Oklahoma City C Steven Adams scored a season-best 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting Friday and is averaging 15 points and shooting 69.6 percent from the field.
PREDICTION: Thunder 106, Bulls 100