Bulls ready for marquee matchup with Thunder

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Bulls ready for marquee matchup with Thunder

For those who believe the Bulls will take the next step this season and advance to the NBA Finals, Sunday's showdown with the Oklahoma City Thunder could be a preview of what's to come.

A marquee matchup featuring the league's two best teams--and the only time the squads face off in the regular season--the matinee contest will be must-see TV for fans in the Chicagoland area and beyond.

"It's a big game, it's going to be exciting and we want to play against the best," said Joakim Noah. "They're a great team, we're a great team. Let's get it popping."

However, the charismatic center's boisterous sentiments weren't echoed by his coach. Tom Thibodeau, as one would expect, downplayed the upcoming affair.

"It's our next game. They're really good, it's going to be a great test for us and we've got to be ready. We've got to take care of the ball, we've got to play great defense. They've got great length, they're a well-balanced team, so we're looking forward to it," he said.

"They're a high-scoring team, they play in transition, they have a lot of weapons, but whenever you're facing a team like that, it's not only your defense. You have to play sound offense also, so we have to play a well-balanced game and defend, rebound, keep our turnovers down, share the ball, inside-out. That doesn't change from game to game."

Luol Deng, while taking a more humorous approach, took a middle ground between his coach's dourness and his teammate's excitement.

"They're a very good team. Even last night when I watched them, they played great. They've got so many weapons. Their big guys are really good defensively, block shots. It's going to take a total team effort, but we're going to go out there, play hard and try to win," said the first-time All-Star, who will likely be charged with defending two-time reigning NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant.

"When we play bad, you guys the media are going to kill us anyway, no matter who we play, so this game is for you guys, to hype it up and get everybody ready for it, but for us, it's another game we've got to go out there and play hard."

Regardless, despite Thibodeau's distaste for the media's labeling certain contests as "measuring-stick games," there will be plenty of analysis of what many believe could be an NBA Finals preview.

Dwyane Wade's near-miss of a triple-double caused by friendly Felicio fire

Dwyane Wade's near-miss of a triple-double caused by friendly Felicio fire

In a season where the triple-double has become commonplace to the point of stat chasing in the effort to chase history, Dwyane Wade didn't mind snatching his own piece of turf.

In a game where teammate Jimmy Butler reached the feat for the first time this season, it would've been doubly satisfactory for Wade to achieve the fifth triple-double of his career.

One rebound away in the final seconds of the Bulls' 117-99 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the memo didn't reach Cristiano Felicio, who reached over Wade to grab a rebound, causing it to harmlessly fall out of bounds and ending Wade's chance at history.

After Wade finished with 20 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in 34 minutes, he was asked if he "hated" Felicio for interrupting his moment.

"No hate. Just a strong dislike, though," said Wade with a wry smile. "You know how long it's been since I had a triple double? It's been a long time."

It's been six years, as his last triple-double came in the 2010-11 season with the Miami Heat, achieving the feat with a 22-point, 12-rebound and 10-assist performance against the then-Charlotte Bobcats on Feb. 4, 2011.

Even more than the statistical feat was Wade's variety, as he grabbed seven rebounds in the decisive third-quarter run that broke the game open, hitting Butler and Bobby Portis for long touchdown passes that would've had Jay Cutler or whichever quarterback the Cleveland Browns are banking on next fall, blushing.

Perhaps even more impressive was the fact it was on the second night of a back-to-back with the Bulls winning in overtime against the Phoenix Suns—a game where Wade turned it up late then threw it down over Alex Len in overtime.

"I think we just found our groove," Wade said. "We've had some injuries that have gone on but we're playing good basketball."

More pointedly, so is Wade, aided by him often finding Felicio for easy dunks on the pick and roll as they play second and fourth quarters together. 

Felicio was clearly bothered by his gaffe, which was made worse by the take-no-prisoners approach from Wade and Butler. When a member of foreign media approached him about an interview, Felicio said "you're not asking me about that last rebound, are you?"

Later in the evening, Felicio went to Twitter, posting "I did not know!!" in reference to Wade's night.

"I told him I didn't not even gonna act like I ain't mad at him. I'm very mad at him," said Wade with a laugh. "But he's all good. He said he didn't see me down there. So he took a shot at my height. It's cool. Jimmy had one. It would've been nice to have two triple doubles."

"I'm sure a stat would've came out that would've said, ‘Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler are the first duo to get a triple-double on a back-to-back since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen', since they got every record around here."

He was close, although Jordan and Pippen didn't achieve their feat on a back-to-back but a random night in the 1988-89 season. Jordan scored 41 with 11 assists and 10 rebounds and Pippen had 15 with 12 assists and 10 rebounds in a 126-121 overtime win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

"We laugh about that often, but it's all good," Wade said. "I gotta work harder till I get another one one day."

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