Bulls head Tom Thibodeau insisted after Thursday's shoot-around that every game is a measuring stick for his team. Tonight against Oklahoma City, that's a real long stick.
Here's what the Bulls would like to get done tonight against OKC:
1. The Ibaka factor - Serge Ibaka showed off his improved shooting range in the preseason against the Bulls, scoring 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting, and while the Thunder have lethal weapons in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Ibaka's emergence as an improved scorer adds to the difficulty in guarding this team.
"Each year he's gotten significantly better, and it's his all around play,'' Thibodeau said of the OKC power forward. "His ability to hit open jumpers on the floor puts a lot more pressure on you, opens up driving lanes for them, and then when you're giving help, you have to be able to recover quickly in order to play both his shot and drive. That puts a lot of pressure on you.''
Durant is difficult enough to defend, so if Joakim Noah can at least neutralize Ibaka, it makes things a bit easier defensively.
2. More 3-Balls - The Bulls come into tonight's game, dead last in the Association in three-point shooting, averaging 2.8 makes a game and shooting a dismal .262 from the field. That has to get better, and against a high-scoring team like the Thunder, it needs to get better.
"I guess the way we've shot the three so far, there's only one way to go,'' Thibodeau said.
3. Let it be Westbrook - It's almost a pick your poison when playing the Thunder, but if there's one player that's shown in the past that he can single-handedly shoot his own team out of a game, it's Westbrook. He's one of the more talented point guards in the game, but gets carried away with his own offense at times, rather than staying within the team concept. The Bulls need to hope that's the case tonight.