Chicago Bulls (4-4) vs Miami Heat (2-4)
8pm ET Thursday on TNT
Jimmy Butler went off on Wednesday, scoring 39 points with 4 rebounds, 7 assists and 6 steals, but it was all for not, as the Bulls fell 115-107 to an Atlanta Hawks team that had 8 guys in double figures. Dwyane Wade chipped in with 25 points, but the Bulls got no help from the bench, which shot just 7 of 21 for 18 points in 66 minutes. And Chicago’s defensive effort was lacking, as the Hawks got a ton of open looks, knocking down 51% from the floor, including 45% from 3. After starting the season 3-0, the Bulls have dropped 4 of 5.
The Heat are a shell of their former selves, with LeBron hoisting trophies in Cleveland, Dwyane Wade back home in Chicago, and Chris Bosh likely to never suit up for them again. What’s left are nights like Monday’s 97-85 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, in which the starting five shot 28% from the floor. The Heat jumped out to a 2-0 lead, and they would never lead again, with OKC building a 39-28 lead in the first quarter. The Heat might’ve had a chance to overcome their shooting woes, but OKC’s Enes Kanter was out of his head, putting up a 24-10 on 10-of-12 shooting. The Thunder led 83-61 by the end of the third, and just put their feet up the rest of the way, allowing the score to get much closer than the game actually was. The Heat are not good at putting the ball in the basket, shooting 42% thus far, and 71% from the line. The biggest beneficiary of the departure of Wade and the inaction by Bosh is Hassan Whiteside, who’s averaging 18-14 with 2.5 blocks a game. Doubt he’s enjoying it all that much.
Los Angeles Lakers (4-4) vs Sacramento Kings (4-5)
10:30pm ET Thursday on TNT
Well look who’s playing .500 ball! The Lakers lost on Tuesday, falling 109-97 to the Dallas Mavericks, who shot 52% from the floor, led by Harrison Barnes’ 31 points on 12-of-21 shooting. Making the loss extra frustrating was that the Mavs were without Dirk Nowitzki, who’s tending to a bad achilles. Still, the Lakers have to feel good about the fact that they already have 4 wins, compared to last year when they didn’t get their 4th W until December 15. LA has made great strides this year after ranking 30th in field goals, FG%, 3-pt%, 2-pt%, assists and points last season. They’re now in the top half of the league in all those categories, save 3-pt%, and are third in scoring. Their big weakness this year? Turnovers, with their 17.8 per game leading the NBA.
After dropping four in a row, the Kings have gotten back on track with wins over Toronto and New Orleans. The 102-94 win over the Pelicans featured a battle between Anthony “The Brow” Davis and DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins, with the former going 34-8 with 4 blocks, and the latter putting up a 28-4, but getting a lot more help, as Rudy Gay went 21-6-6. Cousins is having another big year, averaging 26-9, and while his rebounds are down, his shooting percentage is 24 points better than his previous career mark. But other than Gay (22 ppg, 5 rpg), Cousins is getting very little help, with no one else on the team in double digits for anything, and point guard Ty Lawson scoring just 5.7 ppg.
Watch the Bulls vs Heat at 8pm ET, followed by Lakers vs Kings at 10:30pm ET Thursday on TNT by subscribing to Sling Orange or Blue