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National Basketball Association
Preview
Oklahoma City at Chicago
When: 8:00 PM ET, Thursday, March 5, 2015
Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois

The Chicago Bulls and the Oklahoma City Thunder are both dealing with injuries to All-Star players, and so far both are making the necessary adjustments. The Bulls will try to take advantage of a tired Thunder squad when they play host Thursday. Oklahoma City got Russell Westbrook back from a facial fracture on Wednesday, and he once again proved that he is a legitimate contender in the MVP race.

Westbrook went for a career-high 49 points and 16 rebounds while adding 10 assists to post his fourth straight triple-double in a 123-118 overtime victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday while wearing a face mask. Westbrook’s heroics have helped cover for the loss of Kevin Durant (foot), who is slowly making his way back and is expected to be out at least another week. The Bulls are used to playing without Derrick Rose (knee), but also are dealing with the loss of All-Star Jimmy Butler (elbow), who sat out Tuesday’s win over Washington and will miss three to six weeks.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT

ABOUT THE THUNDER (34-27): Westbrook took a knee to the side of the head late in a loss at Portland on Friday, resulting in a dent in his face where the bone was fractured. The 26-year-old took one game off before coming back with the mask and became the first player since Michael Jordan in the 1988-89 season to post four straight triple-doubles when he picked apart the 76ers on Wednesday, leading to loud “M-V-P” chants from the home crowd while the reigning MVP, Durant, waved to the crowd for more from the bench. “For those of you, including myself, that thought Russell might need a few games to get used to the mask,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks told reporters, “we were wrong.”

ABOUT THE BULLS (38-23): Chicago needs players to step up and fill the scoring load vacated by Butler and Rose, and so far rookie forward Nikola Mirotic is up for the challenge. Mirotic is averaging 26 points and 8.5 rebounds over the last two games while playing more than 30 minutes off the bench in each contest. “We’ve just got to hold the fort down until (Rose and Butler) come back,” Bulls center Joakim Noah told reporters. “I think a lot of the young boys really stepped up in a big game (Tuesday against Washington).”

BUZZER BEATERS


1. Westbrook, Jordan and Pete Maravich are the only players in NBA history to post consecutive triple-doubles while scoring at least 40 points.

2. Bulls F Taj Gibson (ankle) is expected to miss his third straight game.

3. Oklahoma City has taken five straight in the series, including a 97-85 triumph in the trip to Chicago last season.

PREDICTION: Thunder 106, Bulls 101
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W/L Strk Home Away Day Night Div Conf
Oklahoma City 33-27 W1 19-8 14-19 21-9 12-18 7-5 19-19
Chicago 38-23 W1 19-13 19-10 2-2 36-21 6-4 22-13
Last Meeting
Oklahoma City Chicago
Date Away Home Pts Reb FG% Pts Reb FG%
3/17/14 OKC 97 CHI 85 97 46 41.3 85 46 34.5
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Points Player Total FG% FTM
Oklahoma City K. Durant 35 52.4 10
Chicago T. Gibson 16 42.9 4
Rebounds Player Total Off Def
Oklahoma City K. Durant 12 1 11
Chicago J. Noah 12 4 8
Assists Player  
Oklahoma City R. Westbrook 9
Chicago J. Noah 9
Season
Points Player Total FG% FTM
Oklahoma City R. Westbrook 1266 42.8 361
Chicago J. Butler 1205 46.9 363
Rebounds Player Total Off Def
Oklahoma City S. Ibaka 494 137 357
Chicago P. Gasol 755 178 577
Assists Player  
Oklahoma City R. Westbrook 403
Chicago D. Rose 254
Quickchart Matchup
Oklahoma City Off vs  Chicago Defense
101.8 Points For
98.4 Points Against
44.3 FG%
44.1 FG%
47.6 Reb
43.3 Reb
Chicago Off vs  Oklahoma City Defense
101.2 Points For
99.1 Points Against
44.0 FG%
42.8 FG%
43.3 Reb
43.3 Reb