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Bulls/Thunder Game Preview: Will Lightning Strike Twice?

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Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

[Thanks to Easy Eis for today's game preview -yfbb]

It's deja vu all over again, and for more reasons than one might think.

Not only are the Bulls playing the Thunder again after playing (and beating) them ten days ago. Not only is Russell Westbrook is still on his near triple-double-every-night rampage across the NBA. Not only are the Bulls in yet another Sunday trapinee game. But of course, as has been a pattern over the last few years, the Bulls have found themselves in the middle of the home stretch to the playoffs with more questions than answers. Giddyup.

Oh, and the Bulls have finally entered "more than enough to win" mode given all the injuries they've sustained. Seems like it came later this year than it usually does. However, I'd like to think right now the Thibodeau mantra reads more like "more than enough to take the Sixers to overtime" or "more than enough to shoot our way out of a 19-point lead." It's unfair to call this Bulls team bad given they're missing their best player of this season, their franchise player, and their leading man off of the bench, but I'll be damned if watching this team isn't a chore and a half right now. The Bulls have a true shooting percentage of 51.6% for the month of March, which is Knicks/Lakersterritory of awful. Nikola Mirotic, the team's leading scorer in the month of March, comes off the bench. Joakim Noah is leading the team in assists per game this month, which stands as an impressive individual feat but speaks volumes about how ineffective the Bulls' guards have been facilitating in Derrick Rose's absence. They have an all too familiar tendency to just completely crash on offense to the tune of 10 point quarters and an inability to get to the basket which results in settling for jumpshots (and the occasional Kirk spin-cycling himself). To put it simply, the Bulls offense right now is the complete antithesis of eye-candy.

In fact, this team looks lost without some of its leaders. The identity is gone. Players don't hustle after loose balls and rebounds nearly as frequently as they used to. The Bulls being ranked in the top ten for rebounding rate for the season (51.4%, 6th overall) is extremely deceiving when taking into account some of the most recent games and seeing the way the Bulls have gotten slaughtered on the glass. It is absolutely inexcusable for a team like the Charlotte Hornets--a team missing its two best big men--to outrebound the Bulls by a full nineteen boards, especially when you consider the two starting big men for Chicago both average essentially double-digits in that category. They also cannot take care of business to save their lives, as their record against sub .500 teams indicates.

When these two teams last met, the Bulls did what they could to keep Westbrook from putting up his usual absurd stat lines, and while they halted his triple-double streak, Westbrook still went off for 43 points, 7 assists, and 8 rebounds (although he did only shoot 14 of 32 from the field). Given the lackluster play from the Bulls of late, and the fact that Westbrook will be even angrier than usual considering how the Thunder just recently lost to the Bulls, I wouldn't be too enthusiastic about walking out of OKC with a victory. Lets just hope the Bulls can get healthy by playoff time.