Thunder at Bulls (8pm ET Thursday, TNT)
If this is their last go-round together, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant better get it together. After winning their first three games, the Oklahoma City Thunder have dropped two in a row, to the Rockets and the Raptors. The most recent loss was particularly galling, as Toronto won on a 12-1 run in the final 2:17, with Durant only getting off two shots in the final quarter. “I like that we’re not as predictable, but we’ve still got to stick to what makes us the money, you know what I’m saying?” Durant said afterward.
Don’t look now, Derrick Rose, but the Chicago Bulls may officially be Jimmy Butler’s team, as Butler is outshining Rose in virtually every facet of the game, and appears to be firmly entrenched as the voice of locker room. And rumor has it that a split between the Bulls and Rose is in the works. Whether or not Jimmy wants this team is another question, as the Bulls opened their season with a huge 97-95 victory over the Cavs, but a week later they find themselves sitting at 3-2, fresh off a 130-105 humiliation at the hands of the previously winless Hornets.
“We ain’t been playing no defense,” Butler declared after the loss. Jimmy’s getting upset! The reality is that the Bulls had been playing pretty solid D before they ran into the Hornets, allowing just 91 points per 100 possessions, good for fourth-best in the league, and they remain in the top 10 in adjusted field goal percentage. What Jimmy wasn’t doing against the Hornets was hitting the boards or passing, as he added just 1 rebound and 1 assist to his 26 points.
Grizzlies vs. Trailblazers (10:30pm ET Thursday, TNT)
The Memphis Grizzlies have played each of the participants from last season’s Finals, and in both games got their lunch money stolen. First the Cavs crushed them 106-76, and five days later the Warriors unleashed a 119-69 drubbing on them. Other than that, things have been good, as the Griz are 3-0 against the rest of the league. So against teams that won at least one playoff series, they lose by an average of 40 points, against all others they win by 11. Which team shows up tonight? We’ll see! Fun fact about the Grizzlies: guard Mike Conley is the lowest scoring leading scorer in the league, with just 13.4 points per game.
The Portland Trailblazers lost in the opening round of last season’s playoffs, so the Griz have a chance. The Blazers are still trying to find their footing after bidding adieu to big man LaMarcus Aldridge, who signed with Spurs this past off-season, but they’re 3-2 and find themselves in a 5-way tie for the 4 seed in the West. The Blazers are coming off a 108-92 win over the 2-2 Jazz, during which guard Damian Lillard dropped 35 and forward Meyers Leonard had to leave with a sprained ankle and is unlikely to play tonight. His 5.4 points and 3.8 rebounds will no doubt be dearly missed.