Oklahoma City Thunder (5-6) vs. Chicago Bulls (4-7)
Tip Off: 7pm CST
How To Watch: FSOK
These two teams are both entering Friday with at their respective low points thus far in the season. For Oklahoma City, they have lost their previous two games vs. the Spurs (112-102) and Lakers (128-99) and are looking for a bounce back game of sorts. The same statement can be drawn up for the Chicago Bulls as they have lost their past three ball games with all three coming in deficits of four or less points.
Billy Donovan and Mo Cheeks will be making their first regular season appearance to the ‘Peake, but this is not the first time both teams have matched up together in the duration of the season. Chicago came down from the “Windy City” to the “Big Friendly” during the league’s preseason, where the Bulls took both games.
The Thunder have one player listed as out for tonight:
Ty Jerome (Left Ankle Sprain)
Darius Bazley is listed as “Questionable” in Thursday’s injury report as he sprained his ankle on Wednesday vs. the Lakers.
For the Bulls, they will have five players out for tonight’s matchup:
In addition to these four players out, the team is also facing three game time decisions:
Lauri Markannen (Likely)
Otto Porter Jr. (Probable)
Garrett Temple (Questionable)
Darius Bazley vs. Lauri Markannen… or the Lack Thereof
Lauri Markannen has not played in the last seven games for the Bulls, nearing two weeks of no NBA action for the Bulls power-forward. With no clear statement on Markannen’s availability as of yet, he very well could miss his eighth game on Friday. All signs are pointing towards him making his return vs. the Thunder, but the role is a bit unclear for the 23-year-old, as a minute restriction may be imposed due to him being out of the rotation for so long.
Under the assumption he plays, there is a brimming chance he makes the most out of tonight’s juncture. His efficient 48% on threes (albeit in just four games) makes him the same perimeter threat he has always been, tack on the fact he stands at seven-feet and now he can be useful inside as well.
With Darius Bazley also with no clearance to be ready for the game, the entire course of the game can be altered by his status for the night. Bazley has struggled to shoot past the 50% mark after cooling off from his new years streak (where he posted 19/11 in three games,) but signs of light are on the horizon if he goes up against a rusty Markannen.
There’s more of a toss-up on Bazley’s status then Markannen’s so big time appearances could be allocated to forwards Isaiah Roby and Aleksej Pokusevski if Baze’s name is not called upon. Both players tallied up double-figures in their previous game, and received nothing but praise from their teammates and coaches upon entering the locker room on Wednesday (you can read more about Poku’s positive feedback here.) Roby would be your fill in at the four as the starter, and his versatility on the defensive end may be exactly what is necessary to defend a player such as Lauri. In the case of Poku, he showed prowess on both sides of the ball in their last game, with three blocks attached to his name. I would not bank on the rookie to play 30+ minutes for the Thunder, but an upgraded role is highly likely without Bazely.
Luguentz Dort vs. Zach Lavine
The two game preseason series between Zach Lavine and Dort unequvently went to Lavine, who averaged 22 points in just 27 minutes of play. Lavine carried over his dominance on offense to the regular season, currently standing as the league’s fourth highest scorer with 27.7 points.
Lavine has always been known for being able to please an audience, through his flashy dunks and vicious attacks to the basket, he embodies the play of a mixtape celebrity. What you may not know however is Zach Lavine has expanded his range, shooting 37% from deep off near 9 attempts a game.
Dort will have a tough task defending a multifaceted player in Lavine, but being able to stop his penetrations and pullups outside could be the determining factor in this one.
Honorable Mention: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander vs. Coby White