Five Things to Watch: Bulls square off against Russell Westbrook, Thunder tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Bulls square off against Russell Westbrook, Thunder tonight on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1. The Russell Westbrook Show. The most exciting player in the NBA - sorry, James Harden - makes his only stop of the year in Chicago tonight. There aren't enough superlatives to use with Westbrook, who's in a two-man race with Harden for this year's MVP award. Thirty-eight games into the year Westbrook is still averaging a triple-double, with 31.4 points, 10.6 rebounds and 10.3 assists per game. The Bulls will have to try and limit Westbrook and force him into an inefficient night. There's no stopping the hottest player in the league.

2. More Jimmy Butler, please. The good news for the Bulls is they have someone playing just as well as Westbrook. After his 42-point explosion in the Bulls' comeback win over the Raptors on Friday, Butler is now averaging a whopping 34.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists in his last six games. He's entered the MVP discussion, and for good reason. OKC will counter Butler with solid defenders in Victor Oladipo and Andre Roberson, but No. 21 is going to get his.

3. Taking advantage of road woes. Oklahoma City has lost four on the road, though the competition has been stiff in Milwaukee, Charlotte, Houston, Memphis. But the Bulls have also won four of five at the United Center and have a good chance to keep that moving.

4. Victor Oladipo. The Thunder shooting guard has struggled since his return from a wrist injury, shooting just 41 percent on 15 attempts per game. As good as Westbrook is, Oklahoma City is still struggling with consistency and efficiency. Oladipo getting to the rim more should help this. It makes them that much better and helps out an already-solid defense.

5. Dunk contest. There's a special dunk contest at halftime at the UC for those in attendance, hosted by CSN's Luke Stuckmeyer and Leila Rahimi. CSN's Chuck Garfien and Vincent Goodwill and ESPN's Nick Friedell serve as the judges. A highlight of the contest will be shown during the TV broadcast. It's also Rajon Rondo Bobblehead Night at the United Center.

- Buy tickets to tonight's game

- Check out the latest stats and standings to make sure you’re ready for action

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

- NBC Sports App FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Bulls: All of the most recent news and notes

Bulls supportive of Robin Lopez after one-game suspension following Serge Ibaka scrap

Bulls supportive of Robin Lopez after one-game suspension following Serge Ibaka scrap

Although the punches didn't connect, the NBA was not going to take the Robin Lopez-Serge Ibaka confrontation lightly, suspending each one game Wednesday afternoon.

Lopez served his time in the Bulls' surprising 117-95 win over the Detroit Pistons at the United Center. Per league rules, Lopez was not allowed on team property but he did speak to head coach Fred Hoiberg when the team returned from Toronto after the Bulls' heartbreaking overtime loss Tuesday.

Lopez will return to the Bulls lineup Friday against the Philadelphia 76ers, a relief to the Bulls considering the league could've taken a harsher stance with Lopez — a two- or three-game suspension was being mulled at the league office, sources tell CSNChicago.com

Lopez was pushed into Ibaka after Jimmy Butler hit a three in the second half, and the two combatants squared off underneath the rim, with officials, teammates and coaches trying to separate them.

Ibaka appeared to have his arm reaching at Lopez's neck, prompting Lopez to swing at Ibaka. He missed, and Ibaka grazed Lopez's face with a wild swing of his own.

Both were ejected after being separated and shortly thereafter, the Raptors begun their run from being down 15 points to end the Bulls' recent mastery over them.

Despite the effect, Lopez had the full support of his teammates and coaching staff.

"I think you ask anybody in that locker room, Robin Lopez is one of the most if not the most popular guy on this team," Hoiberg said. "He's a guy that goes out and approaches his job the same way every day. He goes to work. He never complains. He does what's asked of him. Also if you asked them, they'd tell you he's as passionate of a guy as we have on this team as well. He's got a fire to him that you just don't ever want to take away."

That fire clearly got underneath Lopez and Ibaka, causing Lopez to lunge at Ibaka. Telling from the immediate reaction from the Bulls players and from Hoiberg and associate coach Jim Boylen, it seems as if it wasn't the first time Lopez's engine ran a little hot.

"This game gets very competitive obviously, it gets heated at times," Hoiberg said. "That happened last night. It's unfortunate what went down, but we've all got Robin's back. I think everybody in this organization, from the players all the way to up top, has Robin's back. We'll deal with it and move on. We'll be happy to have him in the lineup Friday."

Lopez averages 10.3 points and 6.5 rebounds in 27.9 minutes per game, slightly higher than his career averages through his nine NBA seasons.

Considering the play seemed relatively tame, it was slightly puzzling to see both players go at each other so ferociously but there appeared to be more to the story than first blush.

"There's always more going on than it appears," Hoiberg said. "You go back and watch on film, there's little jabs that happen in the course of the game and sometimes it reaches the boiling point. Robin is a guy that plays this game with a lot of passion, and you don't ever want to see something like that happen, but it did. And again, you move on."

Normally, Lopez attacks mascots during timeouts or pregame warm-ups, so nobody felt Lopez was looking for an altercation, and considering it only cost him a game — one the Bulls won anyways — Hoiberg didn't seem too stressed about it beforehand.

"Yeah, you know, Robin's going to have our guys' backs as much as anybody in the locker room," Hoiberg said. "Again, you look in that locker room, all those guys are going to have each other's back, Robin as much as anybody. Unfortunately, it happened. It looked like it was a little hip check, they turned around and got squared off, and we all know what happened. Again, we'll all be excited to have Robin back in the lineup on Friday."

Fast Break Morning Update: Bulls blow out Pistons

Fast Break Morning Update: Bulls blow out Pistons

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks go for season sweep vs. Stars tonight on CSN

Bulls beat lifeless Pistons

Blackhawks want to finish strong while staying fresh for postseason

David DeJesus Q&A: New CSN Cubs analyst on retirement, Anthony Rizzo and Joe Maddon

How the White Sox and Tim Anderson came to their creative contract extension

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Expectations for John Hayden in the playoffs

Cubs remember Dallas Green's impact on Wrigley Field

Prospect Zack Burdi's focus in White Sox camp: 'Act like you belong'

BearsTalk Podcast: The three best defensive choices for Bears' first-round pick

Bulls supportive of Robin Lopez after one-game suspension following Serge Ibaka scrap