Scuffling much of the season, the Chicago Bulls can’t afford to overlook anyone.
The Bulls have suffered a handful of losses this season to teams missing their biggest pieces, including Wednesday in their most recent game, when Washington – without Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis – knocked off Chicago.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have made a habit of pushing teams well ahead of them in the standings to the brink, pulling off their share of surprising victories, including Thursday’s 133-114 win in Philadelphia.
Friday in Chicago, the Bulls and Thunder meet with Chicago still trying to put things together and Oklahoma City trying to continue heading in a strong direction.
“I don’t think we have the luxury at all as a team to look at who’s in or who’s out,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “We just don’t. We’ve got to be able to play to a level and a standard.
“The disappointing part, the frustrating part, whatever word it is, is that we know what it is and we’ve all got to get it resolved, myself included with them.”
The Bulls have lost back-to-back games and four of their last seven.
“I feel like it’s my responsibility to bring light to our inconsistencies, to expose them and for us all collectively to try to get them corrected,” Donovan said. “It’s a mentality we have to have.
“I think it’s what we have to develop.”
The Bulls have failed to reach 100 points in just four games this season. Two of those have been their most recent losses.
The Thunder have won four of their last six and are averaging 126 points per game during that stretch.
In addition to the 76ers, Oklahoma City has beaten Boston and Dallas in recent games.
“It shows that we belong,” Thunder guard Josh Giddey said. “You see a lot of teams rest their better players against us, but we’ve shown that we can compete with the best teams in the league when we’re switched on from the jump.”
Thursday’s win snapped a six-game road losing streak for Oklahoma City.
“I think we’re gonna be a really good team a lot sooner than people think,” Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said. “I see the growth every day. I see the growth in the last five months, year, two years, and I’m super excited about it.”
Friday’s game is the second of two meetings between the teams this season.
The Thunder won the first, 123-119, in overtime on Nov. 25 in Oklahoma City with Gilgeous-Alexander scoring 30, including hitting five consecutive free throws in the final minute of overtime. Giddey narrowly missed a triple-double.
Friday, it could be the Bulls who could be short-handed.
DeMar DeRozan, who missed his first game of the season Wednesday, is listed as doubtful with a right quadriceps strain.
Zach LaVine, who hasn’t missed a game since early November, is listed as probable with a right hand contusion.
The game is the first of consecutive home games for the Bulls and the third of a four-game road trip for the Thunder.
–Field Level Media