Monday, March 17, 2014
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Preview: Thunder at Bulls

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[March 17, 2014]  Russell Westbrook is expected to be back in the lineup for the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Chicago Bulls on Monday, and it sure looks like they could use him. Westbrook sat out as a precaution on the first night of a back-to-back and the Thunder never got much going on either end in a 109-86 loss at Dallas on Sunday. The Bulls are winners of two straight and are trying to track down the Toronto Raptors for the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference.

Westbrook and Oklahoma City appeared to be rounding into form with two wins that included strong defensive efforts along with All-Star performances from the recovering point guard. The Thunder looked like a much different team at home against the Mavericks on Sunday, when Kevin Durant scored 30 points but got little help. Chicago is a half-game behind the Raptors for the No. 3 spot as is comes into the finale of a six-game homestand with a 3-2 record.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, FSN Oklahoma (Oklahoma City), CSN Chicago

ABOUT THE THUNDER (48-18): Oklahoma City has slipped two games behind the surging San Antonio Spurs for the top spot in the Western Conference after Sunday's loss and will play three straight and four of the next five on the road. Westbrook is being brought along slowly after his third knee surgery and coach Scott Brooks elected to sit him for Sunday's home game instead of the road contest on the back-to-back set. Westbrook turned in one of his better games in Thursday's 131-102 rout of the Los Angeles Lakers with 29 points on 9-of-17 shooting to go along with nine assists and three steals in 23 minutes.

ABOUT THE BULLS (37-29): Chicago absolutely crushed the last Western Conference contender it faced with a 111-87 rout of the Houston Rockets on Thursday but had a little more trouble in Saturday's 94-87 triumph over the lowly Sacramento Kings. Joakim Noah continues to carry the Bulls and put up 23 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and five blocks against the Kings. “He really does it all for us,” forward Mike Dunleavy told reporters of Noah. “He brings it every night. He's an inspiring teammate. When you pass it to him and you cut, you're always going to have your eyes open because the ball will end up finding you some how, some way.”

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  1. The Thunder have taken four straight in the series, including a 107-95 home triumph on Dec. 19.

  2. Dunleavy is 7-for-12 from 3-point range in the last two games.

  3. Durant has hit multiple 3-pointers in six straight contests.

PREDICTION: Thunder 101, Bulls 92

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