Oklahoma City-Chicago pregame primer: Three things to watch
By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
Oklahoma City plays the Bulls in Chicago tonight, tipping at 7 p.m. on TNT. Here’s a pregame primer:
Three OKC things to watch
1. Westbrook mismatch - In years past, this cross-conference showdown provided arguably the most exciting point guard matchup in the league. Two hyper-athletic score-first speed demons with relentless energy and a stubbornness to get to the rim at all costs. But Derrick Rose’s continued health issues robbed fans of that All-Star back-and-forth last season, and they’ll get the same disappointment come Thursday. Rose is recovering from an ACL tear, not expected to return until at least January, meaning Chicago will likely start Kirk Heinrich on Westbrook, and spell him with the undersized Nate Robinson. Nice veteran players with some skill, but complete mismatches in favor of OKC.
2. Hasheem the dream - Oklahoma City’s second unit has played well in spots this season, especially in Tuesday’s blowout of Toronto. And one of the biggest (and most surprising) reasons for that is Hasheem Thabeet, the 7-foot-3 NBA bust turned capable backup center, who’s playing the best basketball of his disappointing four-year career. By adding Cole Aldrich to the Harden trade, Scott Brooks and Thunder management showed their preseason trust in Thabeet, and he’s delivered. In four games, Thabeet is yet to miss a shot (a perfect 4-4) and has blocked at least one shot in every game (six overall). Tuesday’s 10-point showing may not stand out, but for Thabeet it’s a milestone, only the fourth time he’s reached double-digits in the NBA and the first since March 22, 2010, his rookie season. It’ll be interesting to see if he continues to build off that strong play.
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