It's unknown what will happen when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. The NBA's version of that paradox will unfold today between the league-best Chicago Bulls and Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The playoff-bound Bulls are the top team in the NBA with a 42-11 record and have been winning with reigning MVP Derrick Rose on the bench with a groin injury. Rose is not expected to play this afternoon in order to rest up for the playoffs and Chicago is 7-2 in the last nine games without their floor leader. The Central Division-leading Bulls aim for their eighth straight win on the road Sunday and are coming off Friday's 83-71 home win versus Detroit.
Luol Deng scored 20 points, while Joakim Noah had 19 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulls, winners in two straight and nine of 11 games. Carlos Boozer posted 13 points and 11 boards in a winning cause.
"Our attention to detail was great tonight," said Boozer.
Chicago is 3 1/2 games ahead of Miami for the top seed in the East and owns a 31-7 record against conference foes. It is 21-6 as the visitor this season and will have its hands full the next few games with the Thunder, Rockets, Celtics, Knicks and Heat on the horizon. The Bulls can make it easy on themselves if they score 100 points, going 18-0 when that happens in 2011-12. Chicago is 24-0 when holding an opponent to less than 90 points.
In other injury news for the Bulls, veteran guard Richard Hamilton (shoulder) is questionable against the Thunder. Hamilton has missed 13 straight games and has been limited this season because of various ailments.
Oklahoma City seems to have righted the ship with five straight wins after alternating results over the previous eight games, and will try to become the first Western Conference team with 40 wins this season.
In a 102-93 win over Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, Russell Westbrook scored 36 points and Kevin Durant added 21 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Kendrick Perkins finished with 12 points and eight rebounds for Oklahoma City, which shot 46.2 percent from the field and is first in the West standings -- 2 1/2 games ahead of San Antonio.
Derek Fisher posted seven points against his former team. He was dealt to Houston at the trade deadline before being bought out by the Rockets and signing with the Thunder. Fisher, who played 13 of his 16 NBA seasons and won five NBA titles with Los Angeles, sounded relieved to be on the Thunder.
"I have great memories here," he said, "but it's fun to play on a team that has no pressure on them to win. It's refreshing. It's not a championship-or- bust mentality. It's a good feeling."
The Northwest Division-leading Thunder are 22-4 at home and have ripped off four straight wins as the host. They will also entertain Memphis on the quick homestand and are 10-3 against teams from the East this season.
Sunday's game is the only meeting of the regular season between the Thunder and Bulls, unless they meet in the NBA Finals. Both teams split a pair of meetings a season ago with each team winning as the host. Chicago has won seven of the last 10 matchups in this series and five of seven as the guest.