Bulls-Thunder game preview

The Bulls open their season tonight against the Thunder in Oklahoma City. And since both teams are currently undefeated at 0-0, it’s hard to identify any regular season trends.

So let’s consider last season.

During the 2009-10 campaign, the Thunder (27-14 at home) played the Bulls (17-24 on the road) twice, winning 98-85 at the United Center on January 4 and losing 96-86 in Oklahoma City on January 27.

In 2008-09, the Thunder won 23 games. In 2009-10, they won 50 games. For those of you who enjoy simple math, that’s a 27-game improvement, tops in the NBA last year. For the sake of comparison, the Memphis Grizzlies came in second with a 16-game improvement.

The Thunder did it with a stingy defense (1st in total blocked shots, 4th in Opponents Effective Field Goal Percentage, 7th in Opponents Turnover Percentage, 9th in Defensive Rating) and Kevin Durant’s offense (a league-best 30.1 PPG).

At 21 years and197 days old, Durant became the youngest scoring champion in NBA history. Not surprisingly, he finished second (to LeBron James) in MVP voting. A distant second, but still. The kid is amazing. Although he didn’t do it alone.

When KD missed, his teammates were there to clean up the mess, as the Thunder ranked 3rd in Offensive Rebound Percentage. The Thunder also drew fouls, ranking 2nd in Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt and 3rd in Total Free Throw Attempts.

Durant was a major component of those foul shooting numbers. Last season, KD made 751 free throws. History lesson: That’s the sixth-highest total in NBA history and the most since Michael Jordan hit 833 in 1986-87. The only other players to convert more freebies than Durant were Oscar Robertson (800 in 1963-64), Adrian Dantley (813 in 1983-84), Wilt Chamberlain (835 in 1961-62) and Jerry West (840 in 1965-66).

That’s some pretty rare company.

Assuming things remain relatively constant, the Bulls must contain Kevin Durant as best they can (good luck, Luol), while keeping KD and his teammates off the free throw line. It’s also imperative that they take care of the ball and crash the defensive glass. Outside of Durant, the Thunder rely on points off turnovers andsecond-chance points to generate offense.

The Bulls can’t afford to give up garbage points. They need to make the Thunder earn everything. After all, the Thunder ranked only 20th in Effective Field Goal Percentage last season.

Note: All stats came from ESPN Stats and Information and Basketball-Reference.com.

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13 Responses to Bulls-Thunder game preview

  1. choyle@bpu.com'
    Chuck October 27, 2010 at 5:31 pm #

    Go Bulls!!! This will be win #1 of a 55-27 season that brings them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Deng just has to bring his A game tnight. There is no real way of shutting Durant down so you just have to make him work for his buckets and make sure that none of the other players go nuts. Noah has the goods to protect the rim and rebound the ball.

  2. Nikhil October 27, 2010 at 5:35 pm #

    This seems like the sort of game where Korver should get a lot of run at the SG position. The main drawback to Korver is his defense, but if he’s guarding Thabo you dont really have to worry about that. I’d like to see him match up with Thabo and really space the court for Derrick tonight.

  3. Mahmoud October 27, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

    Sorry Chuck, I love the Bulls as much as the next guy, but I don’t see it happening tonight. The Thunder are going to be tops in the NBA, they’re at home, and we’re missing (presumably) our second or third best guy. Maybe if you took Jeff Green or Russel Westbrook from the Thunder, then maybe we’d have a chance. But I see this game being the first loss of the season, reversing the trend of winning season openers (won the last two, as I recall). We’ll fight, keep it close, but I don’t think we’ll ever really be in striking distance.

  4. Inception October 27, 2010 at 6:50 pm #

    agree with previous comment…sort of a buzz kill when your biggest acquisition is on the sidelines…OC is on a mission this season with virtually everyone picking LA to win the west…if CHI wins, it would be huge considering the factors….just don’t see it happening.

  5. Bill Z October 27, 2010 at 7:15 pm #

    I think we need to focus on the Bulls strengths as well here.

    1 – ROSE. No one can guard him. He can break down the defense and score or find the likes or Deng, Bogans, Korver for open shots.

    2 – REBOUNDING. Noah should own Kristic on the boards. And as allstar mentioned, Green is really a 3 playing out of position. I think the Bulls should have a decided advantage on the Boards. I would also like to see Asik and Noah play some minutes together. OKC doesn’t have emough size to compete with these two. It would also slow down Westbrook’s game because his best asset is his ability to get to the rim. He is an average jump shooter. Noah/Asik’s size would be disruptive and limit second chance points.

    This should be a very exciting game!!!

  6. jth95@cornell.edu'
    Jeremy October 27, 2010 at 7:21 pm #

    I agree, but it’s the NBA and anything can happen. When does boozer get back again?

  7. Inception October 27, 2010 at 8:30 pm #

    i think anything can happen in the NFL, but not the NBA…i can literally guarantee a good number of teams that won’t make the NBA finals.

  8. inkybreath@gmail.com'
    inkybreath October 28, 2010 at 12:19 am #

    Wow. First commercial break. Thank you to Derrick Rose for showing the next level right in the first minutes of the first game.

  9. Mike G October 28, 2010 at 12:57 am #

    I just saw something that made me particularly happy… Derrick Rose slamming a basketball in frustration to a foul a teammate committed. Its this kind of intensity that seemed to be missing from his personality prior to his time in the Worlds. I hope this intensity becomes a consistent facet to Rose’s personality (along with a three-point jumper).

  10. tarheelblue23.gonzalez@gmail.com'
    cgonzo October 28, 2010 at 1:20 am #

    Derrick Rose is seriously ballin out. I wasn’t sure about drafting him two years ago because the Bulls needed a post player. However, I realize how wrong I was watching him vs. the Thunder. He is taking his game to another level.

  11. gosieg@umich.edu'
    Gordon October 28, 2010 at 2:45 am #

    Wow. Terrible ending for the Bulls. Some bad calls by the refs went against us, and Thibs waiting way too long to call a timeout. Disappointing.

  12. chad October 28, 2010 at 3:21 am #

    Guess who I want back. TYRUS THOMAS. 8.5 million for Brewer and Watson. Yet the Bulls give away Thomas in the middle of the season cause they didn’t think they could afford him. Guess what he gets 6.6 million. So they could have easily afforded Tyrus and either Watson or Brewer. Anyone really think Watson and Brewer are better than Tyrus? Tyrus barely makes more than the 5 million Korver is getting. Korver can be pretty good, but he better start finding a way to get open, or he was a waste of money. The rest of the Bulls team just keeps getting worse as Rose and Noah improve. Salmons Kirk Tyrus weren’t great, but are better than this trash we got now. Rose and Noah are carrying this team with no one to help except for an occasional Deng. What did Tyrus do for Bobcats today, couldn’t have done worse than what Boozer did for us today. Boozer is a walking injury, injured most his career. What was Gar’s plan for when Boozer is hurt 90% of the time? Oh yea Omir Asheek, only good in that other country he’s from, not an NBA player. And Taj Gibson, similar to Tyrus, but worse. Worse free throws, athleticism. JJ sucks, Scalabrine tries, but we can do better than this. We don’t need to sign all the guys no one wants. Charlotte wanted Tyrus, Washington wanted Kirk, Milwaukee wanted Salmons. Oklahoma City wanted Thabo Sefolosha a while ago. Who wanted the guys the Bulls picked up this year, no one. Utah knew Boozer is always hurt, why give him big huge contract. He owes the Bulls a lot of money for his injuries suffered while not even playing basketball. Gar you suck, wait a few months to see that Lebron and Bosh are selfish guys who are going to join the Heat team that has room for both of them. Then decide whether you have enough money to keep Tyrus.

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