[Thanks to Easy Eis for today's game preview. It should also be mentioned that this is the Thunder's 4th game in 5 nights, so that's potentially good news. -yfbb]
For the sake of everybody that reads Blogabull's sanity, let's try to keep the hatred to a minimum leading up to tonight's contest against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Most are well aware of the fact that Derrick Rose has struggled heavily out of the gate and is now the subject of LeBronologist Brian Windhorst breakup rumors. Most are aware that the Bulls are in the bottom third of the league in assist ratio, turnover ratio, every rebounding rate, and offensive efficiency. Most are aware that the big man with the highest motor on the roster right now isn't currently getting any meaningful minutes.
But can everybody just take a step back, a deep breath, and remember that it's only five games into the season? They beat a Cavs team that has won four straight since the opener. For all we know, Derrick Rose still has double vision. Has Joakim Noah ever had a fast start to a season? It hasn't been the most promising opening slate for the Bulls by any means, but that doesn't mean they aren't capable of hanging around with a Thunder squad that has experienced their own recent struggles (including losing to a Rockets team that lost its first three games by 20 points).
That being said, the Thunder still look like a force to be reckoned with when healthy, and they have traditionally given the Bulls fits when that is the case. Russell Westbrook was well into his rampage across the league last season when the Bulls played the Thunder twice in the span of about a week, and they would have come away with two losses had E'Twaun Moore not happened. Adding Kevin Durant back into this equation certainly doesn't make things any easier for the Bulls, especially when you consider the lack of consistency at the wing opposite Jimmy Butler. Factor in Serge Ibaka and a scary-deep trio of centers in Steven Adams/Enes Kanter/Mitch McGary and this looks like a team that can not only score easily on the Bulls, but match up with their size as well.
Then again, the Thunder are going through their own transition pains under their own new head coach, Billy Donovan. Oklahoma City currently ranks 29th in the league in turnover ratio (17.1%), 21st in defensive efficiency rating (102.1 points per hundred possessions), and is in a three-way tie for 15th in assist ratio (16.1%). However, there are much better signs of promise in other areas, such as in offensive efficiency rating where they rank 2nd in the NBA at 107.7 pphp. They also boast the best rebounding rate out of all teams through five games at a ridiculous 56%. As luck would have it, two of the Bulls' biggest weaknesses through these first five games have been rebounding and defense, which certainly bodes well going into tonight.
Hiccups against perceived weaker teams on the road are forgivable at this point in the season. It's not the first time the Bulls have lost in embarrassing fashion to Charlotte on the road and still gone on to find success in the same season. I have a feeling tonight will give fans a much better idea of what to expect from this Bulls team this season, although it's hard for me to picture a victory given how good OKC is at doing what the Bulls have struggled to do in response. As long as the Bulls can remain competitive tonight, I think that there will be little reason for concern in the immediate future regardless of the game's outcome. Don't expect much, but don't jump to conclusions about the team a mere six games into the season either.
INJURY REPORT: Kirk Hinrich is mercifully out for this game. Enjoy it while it lasts.