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Thunder-Bulls Preview


Thunder-Bulls Preview
The Chicago Bulls finally seem to be taking advantage of a favorable stretch of home games .

After knocking off the club at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the Bulls look to win three consecutive games in a season for the first time in almost two years on Saturday night against the NBA-worst Oklahoma City Thunder.

Chicago (16-20) won 98-86 over Washington on Friday, and improved to 2-1 on a five-game homestand that started with a 10-point loss to Minnesota last Saturday. The Bulls rebounded with a less-than-inspired five-point victory over struggling Sacramento on Tuesday then finally seemed to play with purpose against the overmatched Wizards.

The Bulls hoped to benefit from this soft portion of their home schedule to remain a serious playoff contender. Chicago, which has lost six of its last nine, is one game back of the final playoff spot in the East.

"We realize we have a great opportunity to win and we can't come out with a lackluster effort," said the Bulls' Ben Gordon, who scored 22 against Washington.

Chicago hasn't won three in a row overall since April 10-15, 2007.

That could change as the Bulls try for a fifth straight win over the Thunder franchise, which in their first season since relocating from Seattle has lost nine straight road games after beating Memphis on Nov. 29 for its only win away from home.

Chicago will have a much tougher test when it concludes the homestand Monday against Portland.

A disgruntled Larry Hughes, who has requested a trade, added 17 points Friday, while Tyrus Thomas and Drew Gooden each had 16 and combined for 21 rebounds for Chicago, which held on despite seeing its 21-point fourth-quarter lead trimmed to seven with just under three minutes left.

Allowing 102.6 points per contest, the Bulls kept an opponent to fewer than 90 for just the fourth time this season.

Gordon is averaging a team-leading 21.0 points and posted 47 on 19-for-35 shooting in two games versus the former SuperSonics last season.

Chicago is expected to be without forward Luol Deng for an eighth consecutive game with an ankle injury, but he could return on Monday.

"I don't want to play 10 minutes and then sit down the next game, and then come back again and keep going back and forth," said Deng, averaging 13.3 points per game. "Right now, we need a rhythm."

This contest features a matchup between last season's rookie of the year Kevin Durant and this season's potential winner in Chicago's Derrick Rose. Rose, however, has been inconsistent of late, averaging 12.0 points in his last five games - below his 16.9 season average.

Durant, meanwhile, continues to be one of the few bright spots for the Thunder averaging 23.6 points.

He had 27 in a 98-96 loss to Houston on Friday for Oklahoma City (5-32), which rallied from a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit to tie the game but never took the lead.

"We have to get stops in the fourth quarter," said Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks, whose team committed 21 turnovers to negate a 44-31 rebounding advantage. "We still have to learn to close things out in the fourth quarter."

Durant scored 36 points in two games versus Chicago last season.


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: January 10, 2009

 

 
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