[Thanks to Jockstrap Noah (and anti-thanks to Ozzie Montana!) for today's game preview (sign up! And do them when you do!). Game is at 7 on CSNChicago -ed.]
Free Throws. Free Throws. Free Throws.
Oklahoma is explosive, the darlings of the league even if Durant hasn’t matched the expectations raised by willing the US to a gold medal. They are the youngest team in the league, have great coaching and have jumped out to a 14 - 7 record, good for only 6th in the West. We stole their defensive coordinator coach in Ron Adams and it seemed early that this defensive defection had hurt the team on that end and it bears out in the numbers. The Thunder sport a 108.8 defensive rating whereas last year they were more stingy at 104.6.
The offense is still kicking (also at a 108.8 rating, weird) due to one aspect of their collective game in which they dominate. Free Throws. They shoot more FTs than anybody (.332 FT/FGA) and they are better at shooting FTs than anybody (85.3% !!!). Russell Westbrook is the primary culprit, he’s at once both the mirror image and analog of Rose. Super Quick, Freaky Hops, Aspiring Jump Shot. Its the same, but where Rose uses his athleticism to avoid all arms and bodies so as to get the ball in the hoop, which seems like the goal of the game, Westbrook just launches himself at the rim and dares you to try and stop him. And then he flails. And then he gets the whistle. He averages 9 freebies a game and Durant, the superstar he is, averages 9 freebies per game also.
So you thought the Refs were bad in the Rockets game ? Expect a more perfect meltdown in the game thread tonight as Rose is mauled with no calls, and Westbrook/Durant are getting to the line every trip down the floor.
On the Bulls side, they are treading water until the 14 Games of Domination later this month. Boozer is working his way in and should get plenty of offensive looks. I could care less about his defense tonight because Jeff Green just doesn’t scare me. If they are going to Jeff Green the whole time that is good for the Bulls, the refs will keep their whistles in pocket. Bogans will get the start again and the Bulls will spot OKC 10 points, because 4 on 5 doesn’t work in this league. My hope is that Thibs is savvy enough to not rock the boat through this rough stretch but he’ll make the change at the start of the 14 Games of Domination.
OKC played last night and destroyed the Warriors in the first quarter. Thanks to Stephen Curry with 39 points the Thunder couldn’t pull its starters and the top 4 starters played relatively heavy minutes (JG:41 , KD:37, RW:37, SwissMister:35). This gives me the slight hope that the Bulls can outwork the Thunder and maybe Luol Deng gets hot from 3 like in that Blazers game.
The enemy blogs at Welcome To Loud City. I’ve driven through and it seemed pretty quiet there. Somebody told me on Saturday that OKC named a street after home town heroes the Flaming Lips. Except it wasn’t a street it was an alley.