The Oklahoma City Thunder will try to win three straight games for the first time this season when they finish a three-game homestand against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday. Paul George has been the catalyst for the two-game run with an average of 39.5 points while making 11 3-pointers, including seven in Sunday’s 112-99 win over Dallas.
Russell Westbrook added 27 on his birthday as the Thunder survived without starters Carmelo Anthony (back) and Steven Adams (calf). “We’ve got to be ready for anything,” George told the media. “When Steven went down, Dakari (Johnson) stepped up. Melo went down and it was a huge contribution from a bunch of guys. ... We’ve got to be that team. We’re fortunate to have two other guys who can take the (scoring) load, but it’s even better when we’ve got young guys who can step up and help the team.” The Bulls may be an easy target as they plod along on a four-game losing streak that includes a 39-point setback at San Antonio on Saturday. That margin of defeat eclipsed Chicago’s 32-point loss against Oklahoma City at home on Oct. 28, when the Bulls shot 28.2 percent from the floor in matching their lowest offensive output since Feb. 21, 2013.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBCS Chicago, FS Oklahoma
ABOUT THE BULLS (2-9): Rookie Lauri Markkanen was limited to 15 minutes at San Antonio due to an ankle injury that also caused him to miss Monday’s practice, but coach Fred Hoiberg is hopeful that his leading scorer (14.3 points per game) will be ready to go Wednesday. Robin Lopez and Bobby Portis led the way in the blowout loss with 17 points apiece while Kris Dunn chipped in 15. Dunn is averaging 13.7 points and three steals over a three-game span.
ABOUT THE THUNDER (6-7): Anthony and Adams are day-to-day but the squad can have confidence in fill-ins Jerami Grant and Johnson. Grant had 10 points and season highs of eight rebounds and three assists while subbing for Anthony on Sunday and Johnson made 8-of-11 shots in limited action this season, including consecutive starts in place of Adams. Westbrook needed only 28 minutes to record a triple-double (12 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists) in last month’s visit to Chicago.
1. George played at least 42 minutes in each of his last three games.
2. Chicago entered Tuesday’s action last in the NBA in scoring (93.6) and shooting (40.9 percent).
3. Bulls F Nikola Mirotic, who suffered several facial fractures when he was punched by Portis in the preseason, returned to practice Monday but has not been cleared for contact.
PREDICTION: Thunder 120, Bulls 98